Last night’s multiple riots in London were something I never expected to see. Yet rioting has a long history in the British capital. The Gordon Riots of 1780 represented one of the most serious examples in the past 500 years when even the seat of government was at risk. Those rioters thought they had a cause—anti-Catholicism—but today’s rioters have only greed, criminality and disregard for basic humanity. The term “feral youth” is not misplaced. Last night rioting came within three miles of my home, so I am keeping a wary eye on developments tonight.
Past riots have been confined to specific areas. Now, thanks to BBM and Twitter, they spread around the capital within minutes. They have also flared up in several other cities as our feral youth realise they can loot and pillage with impunity. So far the police have stood on the sidelines and watched as stores have been looted and residents have been terrorised. Tonight we are promised more resolute action but Londoners are unconvinced and fear for their homes. All we get from policicians are platitudes and meaningless phrases such as “policing by consent”.
At the time of the Gordon Riots it was customary to “read the Riot Act” which came into being in 1714 and was used as a means of dispersing violent crowds. After reading the Act, anyone left on the streets was commiting a criminal offence. Easy peasy policing you would think. Unfortunately, today’s Police leaders spend too much time reading the Human Rights Act instead of the tried-and-tested Riot Act.