Stop this shit!

I’m very troubled by the London riots, especially since the rioting has now spread to Harlesden, the North-West London neighbourhood where I used to live as a student in the 1990s.

I’m pretty sure I know the shop that the looters tried to storm, though it wasn’t a Best Buy back in the day. Even more disturbing, the photo with the article was taken right around the corner of where I used to live.

I’m not overly worried about the house itself, because I lived at the vicarage house of All Souls Church and even looting mobs will hopefully have enough decency to leave a church alone. But there were plenty of small businesses in the area, many of which I patronized on occasion, and these small business owners don’t deserve to have their shops looted and set on fire either. Neither do small business owners in Tottenham or Hackney or Croydon or Brixton or Camden Town or Wood Green or Ealing or Birmingham or Liverpool or wherever else there’s rioting going on at the moment.

This is really what bothers me most about riots of any kind. I understand that people are angry. I’ve lived in London. I know how difficult the situation is for young people in troubled neighbourhoods. And with the eternal creep if gentrification, it has only gotten more difficult since, as rents go up and jobs are concentrated only in a handful of sectors. I also know that the London police is not as nice as the tourists think they are. There were plenty of scandals back when I was there – bungled investigations, cellblock deaths, racism, etc… I don’t think that much has changed in that regard.

But do you know what doesn’t help at all? Looting shops and setting cars and buildings on fire. Because the looting and the fire will only hurt the people in the community. Those shops are owned by struggling small business owners – yes, even the supermarkets are franchised. The cars and homes burned belong to people who are not better off than the looters.

Protests that target small business owners and franchisers have pissed me off for twenty years now. Back when I was at school, there was a flyers for a protest against Shell for some environmental issue or other. More precisely, the protesters wanted to ride their bikes from Shell station to Shell station and probably block off the station. And I said, “Are you nuts? Those gas stations are run by leaseholders who are being exploited by Shell themselves. So you’re basically targeting innocent people who are victims of Shell themselves. If you want to protest, fine, do your ralley in front of the Shell HQ in Rotterdam. I’ll even help you. But leave those small business owners alone.”

I’ve been making the very same arguments since, whenever ill-informed protesters target gas stations or French cheese shops or mobile phone shops or McDonald’s restaurants or whatever. “Stop this shit! You’re attacking the wrong people.”

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