Mark Duggan

August 19, 2011 

He was known as Starry Mark amongst his circle, but outside Tottenham London few had heard of Mark Duggan until August 4th when he died from a police inflicted gun shot wound.  One witness reported the police shot Duggan at close range after they had pinned him to the ground.  The investigation surrounding the shooting is being conducted by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPPC).  Facts surrounding Duggan’s death remain murky.  The 29 year old father of four was of mixed ancestry (British and Afro-Caribbean).

On August 6th Duggan’s relatives and local residents marched on the Totteham Police Station to demand information surrounding the circumstances of Duggan’s death.  Some members of the crowd attacked two nearby police cars, setting them on fire.  The incident sparked rioting across the city.  Police officials later apologized for failing to provide information to the victim’s family in a timely manner and for providing the media with misleading information.

But for the police official’s failure to respond to family and public concerns the protest march and ensuing riot might not have occurred.  In the aftermath the government’s swift crackdown and zero tolerance response under the guise of justice has been anything but with two people jailed for four years each for inciting riots on Facebook – riots that never took place – and one person sent to prison for six months for stealing $5 worth of water.

The British authorities are being criticized for its heavy handed reaction giving little attention to the causes behind the riots.  Riots just don’t happen, but grow out a simmering discontent.  Youth unemployment is the highest in 20 years.  The British Office for National Statistics show the “inactive” population which comprises young people who are neither working nor unemployed stands at nearly 3 million, the highest level since the data was first collected in 1992. The analysis says two-thirds of these 16- to 24-year-olds are staying on in education, perhaps to stave off unemployment.

Compounding the problem in December British lawmakers pushed through a controversial hike in university tuition fees.  Tens of thousands of angry students took to the streets of London and across the nation in protest arguing this effectively prices many out of a college education.

One wonders if similar signs of austerity and high youth unemployment in the States are likely with violent clashes signaling anti-establishment protests.  In the 60s we saw African American communities destroyed by riots; many never recovered.

Austerity and riots take a heavy toll on the communities that can least afford them.  Starry Mark wasn’t the cause of this riot but a human toll of global conditions.

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