So I leave London, and look what happens

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

                  So London’s burning, or at least parts of Tottenham, Hackney, Brixton, Walthamstow, Ealing, Enfield, and Croydon are (sorry if I’ve left any communities out), with parts of Birmingham, Bristol, and Liverpool joining the party.  Damn, I miss out on all the “fun!” It just so happened to be one of those rare occasions that I was in the US in summertime, and in fact it’s been a full seven years since my last summer in California. Who’d of thought my timing could have been so perfect? By the way, my gigs in La Jolla for the Comedy Store this last weekend were “smashing.” I really “burned the place up.” I “destroyed” ’em! I was a laugh “riot!” Have I missed a couple puns there? 

                      Since I’ve been away for a week, the details about what led up to the London riots are still a bit vague to me, but there is a bit of a parallel to the 1992 riots in Los Angeles in that both riots were triggered by an abuse of power by local police. In London’s case, it was the shooting death of Tottenham resident Mark Duggan in a gun battle. To put it mildly, London has been a firecracker waiting to go off, what with financial hardships, rising unemployment, and a general negative outlook for starters. Some of the reports on Duggan don’t exactly paint a portrait of a model citizen, though a father of four, but to Londoners, his death was just another example of the lack of respect the average Joe gets from The Man. 

                        A quick recap of what happened in 1992: A year earlier, four white police officers had been captured on video savagely beating Rodney King, a Black man, despite no apparent resistance from Mr. King. The four officers were put on trial in what appeared to be an open and shut case. Exhibit A seemed pretty indisputable. Somehow the jury found a way to ignore that evidence and vote for acquittal for all four officers. It was as though 400 years of struggle were once again proven to be for nought. People rose up in protest, but except for the brutal assault on an innocent white truck-driver who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, the chaos was sadly confined to ghetto residences and businesses.

                          It makes sense that when rage mounts up and the bubble is burst, logic can easily go out the window. The LA rioters didn’t have the means or the patience to hire a bunch of buses to ride into Beverly Hills and attack the REAL enemy, so they opted for the “convenience” of destroying their own area. The rioters were in such a frenzied state, they didn’t care what they were burning, just so it burned. 

As a result, a lot of black-owned businesses were firebombed and destroyed simply because they were there. 

Unfortunately, it was those burnt-out buildings in South Central LA that stayed in their charred state for months, or in some cases, years afterward. Restoration of these buildings was not so much a priority, since they weren’t exactly on tourist routes. That may be the same fate of the buildings that burned in this week’s rioting.                                                                                            


                         My own situation was the same then as it was now, i.e. as I’m in California during London’s unrest, I was in Las Vegas during that tense week of rioting, curfews, and martial law. Even so, just as there is rioting now in other UK cities, the violence in ’92 affected cities all across the country, and Las Vegas was certainly not exempt. Even with its glitzy reputation, Vegas, like any other big city, has a huge ghetto. There were indeed, buildings looted and burned, but just like in LA, they were all ghetto buildings, no Caesar’s Palace among them.                                                   At the peak of the LA riots, Rodney King, himself a bit of a martyr at this point (though he has since been arrested numerous times for various offenses), was captured by TV cameras trying to quell the violence with the statement that has etched itself into the American lexicon, “Can’t we all just get along?” No statement as such will be coming from Mark Duggan obviously, so most likely this will just play itself out. In the meantime, I worry for many of my friends in Central London. I’m not as worried about Dagenham as there’s enough of a mixture of ethnics and racists there to keep some sort of balance. Harsh, but mostly true. And a pox on you Twitter assholes who keep planning other acts of disruption via social networking. Whatever punishment you get, if you get any, you probably deserve it.     




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