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London’s burning: Heartbreak in the city.

Posted on Aug 8, 2011 | 9 Comments

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

— Gandhi

London Riots Burning

London is a big place…and it’s home to us all.

I feel blessed to have called London home twice in my life now…but I’m not the only one. My friend Amanda, another American transplant from Virginia/Texas/Seattle. My friends Justin and Chris, both fellow travel bloggers from the great southern continent of Australia. My friend Jen from Ontario, who spends her days as a social worker trying to help broken families put their homes back together (and wrote about the riots here).

We’ve all left families and friends behind to live in a city we believe is worth living in–a city known for its endless opportunities and vibrant multiculturalism. We’re all tucked away in different parts, be it southwest, way up north, out east or somewhere at the end of the District Line.

But tonight, none of that mattered. Because tonight, no matter how disparate our post codes in a city of eight million, London is home to us all.

We’re all in this together.

Anyone who knows me well is familiar with my love-hate relationship with social media. Sometimes, I struggle to see the relevance of things like Twitter–the never-ending conversations and endlessly “engaging” with your “audience.” But tonight, I sat on my bed, absolutely glued to Facebook and Twitter, and was unable to pull away…for nearly an hour. Why? Why this sudden change of heart?

Because of the way it brings people together. Suddenly, my news feed and Twitter timeline were a place for people to connect–“Fulham guys, any news?”–“How are things in Deptford?”–“All is quiet in Wandsworth.” Well wishes were pouring in from friends as nearby as the southern coast of England, to as far away as the States, Canada and Australia…and it was amazing to witness.

As temporary police commissioner Tim Godwin just said himself: “normally Londoners do stand up together.”

Let’s fight for a cause worth fighting for.

As the events of the past three days have unfolded, and then seemingly escalated even further all this evening, I couldn’t figure out what exactly it was that bothered me so much about the violence and destruction.

My mind kept going to the scenes of protests we saw throughout the Arab Spring earlier this year, the cries for freedom and justice that kept being raised from places like Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan…and then to the images from London: the senseless smashing of windows, looting, destroying people’s homes, businesses and livelihoods. What was it that was so unsettling?

And then it hit me. The London Rioters have no cause. What are they uniting against, or for, or in the name of?

This is exactly the point made by one West Indian woman against the looters. Incredibly, someone captured her speech on video:

“She’s working hard to make her business work, and then you lot wanna go and burn it up. For what? Just to say that you’re a warrior, that you’re a bad man? Get it real, get real…do it for a cause. If we’re fighting for a cause, let’s fight for a cause…We’re not all gathering together and fighting for a cause. We’re running down Foot Locker.”


I was grateful to see that as one of the trending hashtags on Twitter tonight…and pray I will. Tonight, I don’t think I’m the only one sending up prayers for peace, purpose, compassion, understanding, and love.

Love for what makes this city so great in the first place…

Big Ben Parliament London

Top photograph courtesy of the Telegraph

  • Gorgeous post as usual Candace. You have a real knack for saying things that so many of us are thinking but just cannot put into words.

    Take care of yourself and let’s all hope that this nonsense is over…no more rioting tonight!

    • admin

      Hi Kathryn! Thanks so much for your kind words…it’s just been heartbreaking to watch this lovely city almost turn in on itself. PS – I’m so sorry, but I believe congratulations are in order, right?! I hope the wedding was perfect 🙂 Are you back in the UK yet?

      • Yes!!! I’m back and a married woman now 🙂 It was fabulous and we’re still in shock at how quick everything seemed after so many months of planning!

        We’re headed away on the honeymoon in a few weeks – nothing like prolonging the celebration to make it last a bit longer! When do you leave for India??

  • katherina

    Great article! When I started reading about in in Bloomberg screen, I couldn’t help but spending over an hour researching for the cause and purpose of these riots… And was surprised, I couldn’t find any. It seems to be an anti-police gang that has spread out its hate all over the city. I wish its all over soon, itreally hurts to see these damages on such a beautiful city like London.

    • admin

      Thanks for your comment, Katherina! It’s certainly been an interesting couple of days in London. I think the more I look into it, the more there does seem to be deeper issues at stake–disenfranchised youth, budget cuts meaning they no longer have youth centres to hang out in, school holidays leaving them with nowhere to go, etc…but so much of the violence and destruction is so uncalled for and really far removed from the initial [peaceful] protest they’d planned on Saturday. Best of luck with your move in a few weeks! 🙂

  • So many feelings about what is happening, I feel mostly anger but sadeness is a close second. As you said many of us have migrated here whether it be for career advances, schooling, or travel opportunity and we love this city.

    While my opinion on the rioters has not changed it has widened. For me or others to say that the riotors have no cause is a bit disingenous. Saying there is no cause does not account for the history, tensions in the community, and social issues that have played a part in leading up to this unrest. No doubt that the majority are taking this as an opportunity to steal and destroy but there is context. After this is over there will be issues to deal with, but for now I say get it under control as soon as possible. If that means bringing in the army, using tear gas and hoses then it should be done.

    • admin

      Hi Melissa, great to hear from you! Thanks so much for your insight…I think you put it perfectly. My opinion has definitely “widened,” as you say, since last night to accommodate the context you mention…I suppose my initial reaction to there being no cause came from comparing the London Riots to those in the Middle East earlier this year. But you are exactly right–there is definitely a huge context for this, especially with all of the budget cuts, learning that many of the youth centres have been closed, leaving these youth with nowhere to go…it’s a hard reality to understand in a nation like the UK. Let’s hope this will shed light on the issues currently boiling below the surface and that the government will take note and try to change things before anything worse happens. Stay safe!

      • Thanks, you stay safe as well. Hoping ordered is restored soon.

  • ah sadness*