Reporting Jason DeRusha
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In England, thousands took to the streets for the worst rioting in a generation. But the economic situation in London is no worse than anywhere else in Europe, or America for that matter. So why are so many in England rioting?
“The answer may be, there’s not an easy answer,” said University of Minnesota Associate Professor of Political Science Ben Ansell. Ansell grew up in England and went to the University of Manchester.
“It seems to me like there’s a set of crimes of opportunity,” said Ansell, starting with the police shooting a 29-year-old man to death on Saturday night.
“Once something sparked this tinderbox, youths were able to commit crimes without immediate police response,” he said.
The cell phone hacking scandal that enveloped British Tabloid King Rupert Murdoch also forced out several key leaders of the British police.
Plus, “The mayor ofLondonwas on holiday, the Prime Minister was on holiday, the leader of the opposition party was on holiday. No one was around to pick up the pieces,” he said.
So what is the rioting about? According to Ansell, perhaps a small group of people are truly outraged about the political and economic situation inEngland. But he believes most of the people are simply taking advantage of the opportunity to break rules and be violent.
“They have no demands. They want flat screen TVs and cell phones,” he said.
“It’s just hooliganism,” said Chris Cope, a Bloomington native who now lives in London. Cope said that most of the country is still calm and going about their lives, and he is still planning a trip to London this weekend to visit friends.
As for the rioters: “They don’t have a respect for anything. They have no respect for property, themselves, their neighbors, their community. So it seems like a good idea to burn stuff,” said Cope.
Unlike the hooliganism that surrounded soccer in the 1980s, these riots have been more organized thanks to messages sent through the Blackberry BBM message system.
“People on the left have argued it’s the austerity cuts. But that’s true all across Europe, true in America. Others on the right have said – this is multiculturalism. Yet these aren’t race riots. These seem to be very multicultural riots,” said Ansell.
“This is a study in law and order, rather than in politics,” he added.