Let’s not mince words. The great Catford loot was funny as fuck. Shopping at Argos will never seem the same again. Hundreds of local people were out on the street, with the mood varying from elation, barely disguised amusement and occasional tut-tutting as people of all ages struggled home with wide screen tellys. For ages there wasn’t a copper in sight. The discerning looters in JD Sports were trying things on before deciding which pair of trainers to take home. The smell of skunk hung heavy in the air. All it needed was a sound system and the carnival atmosphere would have been complete.
The looting of Blockbusters was not so successful. The playstation boxes turned out to be empty as were the DVD cases that ended up littering the pavement. Discarded electrical goods were also amongst the debris, their value abruptly wiped out in the free for all. The act of looting was just as important as the loot.
The pawn shops and ‘money supermarkets’ got hit. The kind of cunts who’ll charge you twenty quid to cash a Housing Benefit cheque. Fuck them. Aside from one unlucky optician who suffered a broken window the local businesses were untouched, only the chain stores got whacked. Nothing was set on fire. Some kids went to great length to re-assure the chicken shop they wouldn’t be touched, it wasn’t about them and dinner has to come from somewhere.
Eventually the filth turned up, but not enough and way too late. They were met with a hail of bricks as they attempted to secure Argos. Lots of people scarpered, but many rushed forward to join the fight. Old hands stood back, with the occasional suppressed cheer coming from the crowd every time a rock smacked into the side of a police van, a coppers shield, or a copper. When more coppers turned up more people drifted away. The wide screen tellys were long gone. A stand off continued, at a very low level, till late in the night, but the great Catford Loot was largely over. As a community day out it beat Lewisham People’s Day hands down. Some have called for it to be made an annual event.
Obviously this wasn’t the experience in some parts of the country. The death of three young men in Birmingham is tragic. But crime doesn’t stop just because a riot starts. We know there are some bad bastards out there and it’s a problem our class will have to address. A riot can bring out both the best and the worst in people. On top of this scores get settled and mistakes get made, some of them really fucking stupid like setting fire to shops with flats above them. The right wing press and tories are trawling youtube for any evidence that the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people on the street were motivated by pure criminality. Labours MPs are joining in the witch hunt. Nowhere can it be said that cuts, poverty or indeed capitalism might be to blame.
But most of the kids on the streets didn’t set out to hurt anyone (except perhaps the odd copper). Most were caught up in the delirium that came with showing, if only for a few nights, that they were not powerless. Kids with little to lose and little to hope for owned London, just for a while. And they can do it again.