Monday, 8 August 2011

Tottenham to Enfield Town and beyond: looting across London

For several troubling hours last night, people in sleepy Enfield Town didn't need to switch on their TVs to see what was making the news. 
They just looked out of the window. 
Rampaging teenagers hurled house bricks at riot police outside Enfield Grammar School, where I looted some 'O'-Levels decades ago. 
Shocking scenes flared elsewhere, particularly the car burning on Gentleman's Row, Enfield Town's conservation area of quaint, listed riverside cottages. 
All rather ungentlemanly, I should say.

Truly shocking, but was I really surprised? 
Every day Enfield Town's anonymous shopping area is disturbed by groups of uninspired youngsters coming in from across the north London borough's east-west social divide. On school day afternoons police keep a watchful eye on clusters of young people 'jamming' outside McDonald's and the HMV. Both premises were attacked last night. 
  A quieter form of individual looting has taken place in the Town's dull shopping precinct each day for many years. Store staff maintain crackling radio contact with the shopping precinct's padding, patrolling security guards.
   Pearson's, a modernising department store clinging to remnants of its old charm, keeps a ground floor back room to detain folks who disobey the payment rules of our consumer culture. Pearson's glass frontage was also shattered last night.

Statisticians say people who reside in affluent western Enfield live ten years longer on average than people from Enfield's poorer east. It's an east-west divide mirrored by a similar socio-economic chasm in Enfield's southern neighbour, Haringey, where Muswell Hill and Crouch End contrast starkly with Tottenham.
   Tottenham, where all this criminality kicked off, isn't that far away from Enfield Town. Text and Twitter instantly shorten that distance although not as much as Blackberry BBM, the fast, free and very private social network apparently favoured by youngsters organising riotous rendevous. 
    After messages are sent and received, it's only a quick bomb up the A10 Cambridge Road to Enfield passing through Edmonton Green, Lower Edmonton and Northumberland Park. That's only a short brick chuck from Bruce Grove where the carpet store and flats were horrifically burnt out on Saturday night, leaving several families homeless and destitute. 

Why did all this kick off in Tottenham in the first place? Much more, no doubt, will be revealed and sadly, concealed. But my photographer friend has sent me a link to an eyewitness account of the demo outside Tottenham police station on Saturday afternoon. 
Click on the link; it sheds some light on why London's barely submerged and boiling pressures geysered to the surface precisely over this particular weekend.

Paul Coleman, London, August 2011

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