Civil unrest must give way to 'meaningful' dialogue

Monday, 08 August 2011

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Civil unrest

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100 Black Men of London started its first community mentoring programme in Tottenham in back 2001, and has had a continuous presence in that borough of London ever since.
It is saddening but also frustrating to see the escalating civil unrest we have seen on these streets, that was sparked by the fatal shooting of 29-year-old local father-of four Mark Duggan.

The incident occurred after and an exchange between Duggan with police officers who are reported to have stopped him on Thursday 4 August last week. The looting and street violence in Tottenham on Saturday, which has now spread to other parts of the capital is an indication of much deeper social and economic problem that has been left unaddressed to too long.

First and foremost, our thoughts and sympathy goes out to Mark Duggan's loved ones.
It is our fervent hope that the family gets the comfort it needs at this time and also a thorough and swiftly concluded investigation of the incident with a clear explanation for the family of the events of that evening.

Our thoughts and sympathy also go out to all the families and people whose livelihoods, homes and property have been damaged or destroyed in the violence of the past two days.

100BMOL will always support community action that seeks social justice through peaceful means. Mark Duggan's family and supporters demonstrated this with their peaceful protest outside Tottenham Police Station that was held on Saturday afternoon by his family, friends and concerned supporters.

Need for youth to be heard

Tottenham_riots_4It is unfortunate that other members of society decided to use this as a springboard for criminal activity, looting and violence.

While we acknowledge the fact of youth disaffection, political disenfranchisement and economic frustrations that underlie these actions, it is imperative that London's communities work together to ensure that our streets are not taken over by mob-rule.

We urge all, especially the young people who have taken to the streets in recent days, to exercise restraint, calm and focus in the coming days.
There is a real need for our youth to be heard and the avenues for real communication need to be created and kept permanently open. We should also ensure that the actions we take do not compromise our ability to be heard, and this is a pivotal moment for positive young leaders to step forward and in their spheres of influence make it clear what the smart, appropriate and measured form of protest needs to be.

We especially urge the Police and Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to learn from the lessons of last week and make their investigation into Duggan's death as transparent as possible, uncomfortable as this might be.

Community confidence shattered

tottenham_burns_2011Starting now, it is imperative that the Police start to bridge the obvious chasm of confidence and faith that exists between them and many of London's communities, by re-focussing on building strong and enduring community relations as a strategic priority.

We implore the elected leadership of London at all levels, from councillors to MPs and indeed City Hall, to use these events to reflect on how they truly represent the people they serve, and how they understand, articulate and visibly advocate on the issues which matter to the people.

Youth unemployment, underinvestment in education and training, lack of support for entrepreneurship development programmes, and the provision of and support for youth diversionary and life-skills development facilities and activities is now an absolute imperative to prevent future social unrest and allow our youth to feel more of stakeholders in society.

The government should understand that while it is indeed paramount that there be a swift return to law and order, these issues are far more complex than can be addressed with insensitive comments and pithy directives that can themselves be incendiary in such volatile situations.

London is one of the most vibrant and diverse places in the world, although the capital undeniably needs to address a myriad of problems, we are of the view that this city is more than the events of the past few days.

It will take the sincere cooperation of all concerned, but we can use the unfortunate events of the past few day to open debate and reinvigorate the forgotten parts of this capital city.

By Olu Alake

About the author

100_bm_of_londonOlu Alake is president of the educational charity 100 Black Men of London.

He has a background in equalities and human rights, heritage, the arts and sits on the board of Tiata Fahodzi African Theatre Company.


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