Written by Mitch Billings, a student at William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Unless you have been in exile for the last month, you probably have heard about the riots in the United Kingdom. I recently returned from a law school study abroad program in London. While this doesn’t really make me any kind of expert on UK politics, it definitely caused me to pay a bit more attention to the riots as they occurred. London is a great city that I would encourage everybody to visit, and seeing the chaos that ensued once rioting turned to looting and violence was, to be a bit dramatic, heartbreaking.
The riots occurred throughout the country; from London to Birmingham to Manchester. They began when police shot and killed an unarmed African man. The circumstances surrounding the shooting initially appeared to be covered up by the Metropolitan police, and this lead to peaceful demonstrations in the streets of Tottenham. The demonstrations turned violent when protesters began attacking police vehicles, even setting some on fire. From Tottenham, the riots spread to other areas of London, and eventually throughout England. They became about more than the shooting, as that incident was merely the catalyst needed to bring about protest. They were about unemployment and general mistreatment by the police.
The underlying reasons behind the riots are legitimate. Lower-class youths in England face unemployment rates that are over 20%. Austerity measures set in place by the ruling Conservative Party have made it even tougher for youths to find work and get educated, increasing the gap between the rich and the poor in England.
I’m going to get a little political here, because this is applicable to the United States, as well as England. Austerity measures, at a time when the lower-class continues to grow and grow, are not acceptable. I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think the government spends too much money at times, but putting people to work is the most important job the government has during an economic downturn. Governments should not be surprised that citizens get upset when social and government programs get cut, causing people to lose services and jobs that they desperately need.
I know people are going to disagree with me on whether or not those rioting have a legitimate reason behind their cause. I know very well that at least two of my British classmates are going to think I am incredibly wrong, and have no idea what I am talking about. But as stated, it should come as no surprise that people get upset when you take from the poor to ensure that the rich are not asked to give anymore. It happened in the UK, and it is happening here in America as well. Somehow, we have forgotten about the poor. We expect them to rise from poverty without any help, and this is just not practical. It would benefit the rich to have a strong lower and middle class. It would benefit countries as a whole, because the more people working, the more income tax that gets paid. The idea that we shouldn’t look out for each other is ridiculous. We should help our fellow human beings, and when we don’t, we shouldn’t be surprised when they get pissed off. Many of those who incited violence in England were nothing more than trouble makers who wanted to cause problems. However, if the government were doing its job, they would be getting an education and have jobs that would keep them from looting and setting fire to buildings.