It was inevitable that public outrage would follow the terrible scenes of rioting in London, Manchester and other cities in England; and rightly so. It is inexcusable for mobs to trash, loot and burn shops, houses and vehicles. However, it is sad to see the outrage take on a knee-jerk reactionary guise, where people, who would normally be level headed harp on about how the police hold use lethal force, or even send in the army to deal with rioters. Some also would suggest that the rioting thugs should be sent to Afghanistan to see what real men are like (although they don’t seem to explain how the already stretched forces there would cope with these idiots running around).
Of course, this is the usual fear-based right wing views you’d expect to see in between the squalid leaves of rags such as the Daily Mail; however it would seem its not enough to tout for the indiscriminate shooting of looting scum, but there seems to be an eagerness to attack anyone who suggests that there needs to be an attempt to understand the causes of these riots. What these ‘hang ’em high’ types fail to realise is that riots do not happen for no reason, and unless the government gets to grips with the causes of rioters discontent then what is there to stop it happening again? I agree that all rioters caught should feel the full force of the law come down on them, however I deplore any view that supports extra-legal punishment of rioters.
What, then, does history teach us about civil unrest and outright rioting. Any school student of history will tell you that every event has a cause and a consequence. From riots such as Merthyr in 1831, Rebecca riots 1839-42 to those in the late 20th century one thing is always clear about their causes, they always arise from socio-economic grievances. When you have a group of people who have no stake in society, no hope of changing their circumstances, and nothing to lose then it only takes one spark to set to all off.
Rioters should be dealt with as harshly as the law prescribes, with no exception, after all wanton destruction and mindless vandalism must no be excused, but to get on a soap box and tout the merits of shooting rioters will not help the innocent people who have been affected by these terrible events. It is only through identifying and getting to grips with the causes of the riots can we avoid similar incidents in the future.