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10/08/2011 | UK - London's riots spark deeper conversations about how things work

Editorial

Riots that began over a police shooting have inspired broader conversations about austerity measures, economic strains, racial and social tensions and basic government organization.

 

BONFIRE of the vanities, indeed. Successive nights of rioting in London are raising questions and concerns that go beyond the immediate fear and outrage at lawless chaos and thuggery.

Start with introspection about growing poverty and racial and cultural tensions, add a soupçon of revisionist political science, and mix in a technological riff from the Arab spring, rioters roving from district to district connected by instant messaging and social networking.

The riots began after a 29-year-old father of four was shot Thursday by police on a preplanned operation. An inquest determined how he died but left the details to an investigation that could take months.

Rioting and fires erupted, and there is muttering in the British press that the police were slow to react. The police are in the midst of budget cuts that would reduce the force by 9,000 officers.

The capacity to respond and the responsibility for results are also in question. Instead of the mayor in charge, the authority is immediately ramped up to the central government. Suddenly, Prime Minister David Cameron's government is in the spotlight, or the reflected glow of burning buildings.

In the midst of austerity measures that are cutting social services, along with law enforcement, The Guardian newspaper reports that the insurance bill for damaged shops and homes would be paid for by police under the 1886 Riot (Damages) Act. Running estimates put the costs at more than $160 million.

Local contempt for law enforcement was fueled by the "pinging" scandal, whereby the police helped tabloid journalists hack into private phones and emails.

More than 16,000 police were to be deployed to regain control, as pundits contemplate how to bring authority closer to local government.

In the midst of the economic strain and human toll, the Brits are taking grief from Iran, of all places, for police violence.

The Seattle Times (Estados Unidos)

 


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