Thursday, August 11, 2011

London Riots, Post 2: When does a defender become a vigilante?

As in post 1 about the London riots on the psychology of looting, my comments in red. 

UK riots: When does a defender become a vigilante?

Sikhs gathered in Southall to protect their temple (Photo: PA)
Sikhs gathered in Southall to protect their temple (Photo: PA)
If I am honest, the sight of the Turks of Dalston massing with baseball bats and snooker cues to protect their property from looters on Monday night made me first cheer, and then a little bit tearful. The same went for the photographs of the Sikhs of Southall, turbaned men of all ages – with some carrying swords and hockey sticks – who gathered to defend their temples and homes from attack. The actions of both groups have, no doubt, already entered into local legend.
These groups seem to have remembered quickly and instinctively what much of British society once knew, but has either forgotten or been compelled to forget: the natural co-operation of young and old, a sense of solidarity, and a stubborn unwillingness to allow a bunch of junior hoodlums to destroy everything they hold dear. [Of all the things for a society to forget...] As first and second-generation immigrants to this country, everything they possess has been worked hard for and built up from scratch: they will not surrender it lightly. And everybody who witnessed their defiance in the face of looters, and perceived how effectively it worked, will have applauded them for not simply standing by and lamenting the failure of the police to be everywhere at once while their properties were trashed and set ablaze. [Here, here.  All the good intentions and political talk won't change the fact that you can't always rely on the state to do things for you.  In the end, we are each responsible for ourselves, our lives and our choices.  Forget that at your peril.]
Such behaviour, of course, is not without personal risk, which is why it demonstrates courage in the first place. The three young Asian men killed by a speeding car in Birmingham in the early hours of this morningwere part of a group that had gathered to protect homes in the Winson Green area of the city: their deaths are being treated as murder. [As they should be.  Is this questionable enough that it requires reassurance?]
Yet the longer that lawlessness continues, and the more intensely that ordinary, law-abiding people feel under siege, the more such spontaneous groups will develop and harden. [Herein lies the societal danger.  This is exactly why law enforcement cannot allow civil disorder to escalate, why aggressive measures must be taken.  Vigilantes have their place when the state fails but chaos can set quickly.  Best not to let things get this far.  Lara tweeted that London felt like a war zone.  If the police do not assert control, then it will be.]  Some will remain wholly protective in their intentions, while others may feel tempted to branch out into revenge attacks. [Exactly.] We shouldn’t forget that tensions between African-Caribbean and South Asian communities led to rioting for two consecutive nights in Birmingham in 2005, sparked by unsubstantiated rumours of a rape of a teenage black girl by British Pakistani men. There is a risk that the murders in Winson Green could act to inflame similar anger once again, despite pleas from relatives of the dead men that there must be no retaliation.
Only a crazy person would contemplate cutting police numbers in the midst of such a crisis, a fact that Boris Johnson has already effectively admitted in defiance of official Conservative party policy. [All that the world is a safer place nonsense was just that, nonsense, globally and locally.  In a related issue, how is the much touted European ideal about gun free countries are safer countries appearing of late? This list doesn't include the latest mass shooting in Norway.] The police need to get a hold of the situation, and then tighten their grip on it further for a very long time to come. We are all, rightly, impressed by the spectacle of “community defenders” acting in swift response to an unpredicted attack.  [Actually, it was night 4 of the riots, so the defense wasn't swift or the attack unpredicted but still they took action.  H/T Instapundit for the British v American versions of defense and riots.]   But if young men are pushed into that role long-term, while the inadequate forces of the law gradually surrender control, it will result in an increasingly fragmented and volatile Britain.

For more see: Failure of the Rule of Law in Britian


edgeofthesandbox said...

Thank you for linking to and commenting on this and the other article from the British press.
If riots like that were taking place in the US (and we do have something similar going on right now with flash mobs) they would be called race riots, pure and simple. The Brits are more inclined to look at it through the prism of class.

AHLondon said...

Yes, Brits are always more inclined to see things through the prism of class, of which race is but a facet. And yes, we have flash mobs, emphasis on the flash. Rioters couldn't sustain a 4 day siege. Because of our views on self defense, the rioters, shooters, whoever, their window of opportunity is the amount of time it takes the rest of us to figure out what they are up to and then get to them. Witness everything from the UT Tower shooting, to Flight 93, to the Arizona Shooting. Once we know the other means business, we act. A lot of the Norway massacre commentary mentions a position on guns and self defense, but as yet I've not seen anyone note that of all the campers, some young some old, no one tried to tackle the guy. Yasha lamented yesterday that self reliance has been bred out of Europeans. Sadly, we are responsible for a bit of that.