City under siege
By Abdul Turay
Published Postimees 11 August 2011

Croydon High Street this morning looked like a war zone. I could see smoke pouring from buildings on the main street. Places I know well were burning to the ground. Police had sectioned of the main street. The helicopters, the one
s with
the cameras on, whirred overhead. Debris strewed the streets, people walked around dazed and shocked, not quite sure what to do.

Then is started up again. By noon Croydon was starting to look dangerous. Crowds of youths were beginning to gather. So I went home, only to find the high street near to where I live was shut down. There are reports of crowds beginning to gather there too. I can hear the wail of police sirens as I am typing this.

There is no simple explanation as to why this is happening. The truth is nobody knows why it is happening.

Some commentators have pegged the rioting on the usual suspects of inner city social deprivation and government cuts. This is demonstrable false, as well as poorer areas like Peckham, Tottenham, Hackney, Dalston, and Walthamstow and Brixton, rampaging gangs have torn up well-heeled areas like Notting Hill, Camden Town, Chalk Farm, Ealing, and Lavender Hill.

Ealing was one of the worst hit areas, it is not an inner city area, it’s an affluent leafy suburb on the outskirts of London, think Nõmme.

There have also been trouble across the country in Liverpool, in the centre of Birmingham, in Leeds, Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham. More is sure to follow.

I spoke to local residents in some of the worse effected areas who have been touched personally by events.

Tyrone Davidson lives in Peckham, a tough inner city area on the front line last night. He knows some of the people involved in the rioting.

“I wouldn’t be surprise if some of them(the rioters) come up to me and ask “do you want to buy a TV, do you want to buy a phone?””

Davidson gives me updates of the latest developments.

“My friend just e-mailed me and said it is kicking off in Lewisham again. ”

Talk to local residents and it is very clear that this not a race riot, nor political riot like the one in Tallinn four years ago. It is sheer mindless violence.


I have been on the street, I have seen the rioters. They are young, mostly male, between the ages of 15-30, but different races, religions, shapes and sizes. What they have in common is a hooded attire and an appetite for destruction.

“This ain’t political, some people are just angry and others are jumping on the band wagon,” Davidson said.

“Others are just thinking let’s just go on the rampage. Some of these kids are just 14, 15, their don’t know what's going on, it is just fun for them.

“These people are tearing up the streets . All ages, all colours. It is not a race riot, it’s just mad,” Davidson said.

Bill Todd another local resident agreed. “It's not politically motivated. It is just pure looting,” he said.

Though we may not know why it is happening, I can tell you how it is happening.

Local residents, people in touch with the hoodlums agree these events are not spontaneous, they are co-ordinated attacks, executed with almost military precision. Co-ordinated by blackberry.

In Croydon town centre on Monday, shop were closed at 4pm, hours before any trouble. Shopkeepers had got word that trouble was coming.

Residents also knew trouble was on the way. “My daughter called me at quarter to four and said there will be trouble,” local resident Sheena Kochi said.

This pre-planning has led to senseless destruction. A furniture store on the outskirts of Croydon was set alight merely to divert emergency services away from the main show of smashing up and looting the high street.

“They didn't get all the shops they wanted so they will back for them tonight,” said another local resident who didn't want to be named.

All over London there has been a similar pattern. The looters have discovered the power of the internet to manipulate the police and other emergency services. There are stories of polices being deliberately diverted away from hot spots by false reports of trouble twitted over the web.

Ultimately and this is the really scary thing, the looters have discovered that if you riot in different parts of the city at the same time the police just don't have the resources to deal with it. IT and systematic planning has created new opportunities for looting and general mayhem.




Could this knowledge spread to other countries? Can we expect gangs of hooded rullnokad roaming the streets of Tallinn?

London is beyond saving. “The kids know there aren't enough police to contain it. Police can’t be in two places at the same time,” Davidson said.

Two girls bragging about the riot to the BBC made the same point: “It was good though (the riot), it was good fun. It is not even a riot it's showing the police that we can do what we want.”

The only good thing to come out of all this madness is that ordinary people, decent people, are coming together. Neighbours who wouldn't normally talk and would be going about their business zombie-like on a Monday are now engaging with each other, looking out for each other. It's not just friends and family, total strangers will warn you where to go and where not to go.

It's almost as city has divided into two factions. Them and us. Them, being gangs of hooded youth and us, being everybody else.

I feel like I am living in a city under siege but the attackers are inside the walls already. We all wait with some trepidation for even
ts for the next few nights.