Eyewitness report from last night’s Tottenham riot where Police killing of a local father of four and social problems – including high unemployment – form the background to an explosion of anger on the streets.

Tottenham riot

Weaving down a dark alleyway attempting to bypass police on horseback, we passed a burning pile of rubbish and police gear, abandoned arrest log sheets and DNA testing kits. Over the fences of houses plumes of smoke rose above the railway bridge.The acrid smell of burning cars filled the air.

We had left the police line to get closer to the riot which had exploded in response to the shooting of Mark Duggan, 29, in Tottenham on Friday night. For a community marginalised by cuts and racism – Tottenham has the highest rate of unemployment in the country at 8.8% – the killing of yet another young black man by the police brought an already tense situation to the boil.

Flames erupting from shop fronts formed the backdrop to groups of hooded young men hurling glass bottles at a police force which had clearly lost control, despite the rather strained efforts of one senior Met official to state the contrary. Efforts to disperse the nearby crowds were futile, as police charged forward only to be blocked by swiftly erected burning barricades.

The police assured media outlets that the fire brigade was being swiftly deployed. Not from where we were standing – shops blazed along the high road, with no fire engines in sight. A member of a family we spoke to said she knew Mark Duggan and that the police had no need to kill him. The family understood why the police had become the targets of such pent up anger.

This is the third riot Counterfire has reported in the last year- a heavy handed police raid in Bristol in April was met with a protest and police later attacked the crowd, and in Glasgow disturbances broke out when police used similar methods to clear young revellers in Kelvingrove Park during an unofficial Royal Wedding party.

One account on Twitter earlier said that Saturday’s riot was sparked when police attacked a 14 year old girl during a peaceful protest demanding justice for Duggan.But whatever the origins of the riot it is clear that there is massive public anger at a time when cuts are biting, and hitting the poorest areas hardest.

With the Met already embroiled in a corruption scandal in the wake of the News International hacking saga, and recent police attacks on protesters like Alfie Meadows and Jody Mcintyre, the British establishment has not been so mistrusted or even hated for many years. The ConDem government’s austerity measures can only deepen this animosity and increase tensions as the streets continue to fight back.

Elly Badcock and Dan Poulton

Dan is a writer, broadcaster and campaigner.  His most recent documentary was The New Scramble For Africa and his documentaries have appeared regularly on the Islam Channel. He is an organiser for Counterfire and a regular contributor to Counterfire site.

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