Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Summary - The August Riots in England Understanding the involvement of young people

Summary - The August Riots in England Understanding the involvement of young people:

Title: The August riots in England Understanding the involvement of young people.
Body: NatCen.
Author(s): Gareth Morrell, Sara Scott, Di McNeish and Stephen Webster.
Date published: November 2011.

Themes: Statistics.

Key points:
  • It is implied by the media that destruction anarchy and hooliganism prevailed everywhere, in reality, different areas suffered different degrees of rioting.
  • 30 young people directly involved in the riot interviewed.

Key Quotes: 
  • "In early August 2011, there were outbreaks of significant crime and disorder 
    in some of England’s major cities. The riots and disturbances began in 
    Tottenham in North London on Saturday 6 August following a peaceful 
    protest in response to the police handling of the shooting of Mark Duggan. 
    An apparent incident between a young girl and police sparked clashes which 
    escalated to wide-scale rioting. Windows were smashed and offices, shops 
    and homes set on fire. Looting broke out in the early hours of Sunday in 
    neighbouring Wood Green and Tottenham Hale. Over the course of the next 
    few days, similar disturbances occurred in other parts of London and in 
    other cities."
  • "Different areas of London experienced varying levels of violent protest, vandalism and looting...Peckham (8 August), clashes between police and groups of largely local young people sparked violence that turned into looting... Clapham Junction station in Battersea (8 August). Here, looting by local people, and others from surrounding areas, was not preceded by any significant protest or clashes with police
"Motivations related to benefits:
• Something exciting to do: the riots were seen as an exciting event – a day like no other – described in terms of a wild party or “like a rave”. The party atmosphere, adrenaline and hype were seen as encouraging and explaining young people’s involvement by young people themselves and community stakeholders.
• The opportunity to get free stuff: the excitement of the events was also tied up with the thrill of getting “free stuff” – things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to have.
• A chance to get back at police: in Tottenham, the rioting was described as a direct response to the police handling of the shooting of Mark Duggan. Here and elsewhere in London, the Mark Duggan case was also described as the origin of the riots and the way it was handled was seen as an example of a lack of respect by the police that was common in the experience of young black people in some parts of London. Outside London, the rioting was not generally attributed to the Mark Duggan case. However, the attitude and behaviour of the police locally was consistently cited as a trigger outside as well as within London."

"Situational factors were related to events and the actions of others:                                               
Group processes: young people who would normally think that such behaviours were wrong were encouraged to join in by seeing many others cause damage and steal – either witnessing this in person or through news and social media.                                                                                                       
A rapid flow of information: news and social media speeded up the exchange of information. Young people talked about watching events unfold in real time showing “people getting away with it”, and thinking that if all these people are doing it, then it must be OK.                                                                           
Locality: where the rioting was happening could encourage involvement or act as an inhibitor depending on the proximity to young people.
What the young person was doing: boredom, “nothing better to do”, was an important “nudge” factor. Conversely, being occupied through work, an apprenticeship or some other activity was an inhibitor to involvement.
What friends and peers were doing: few young people got involved in the riots on their own. Most went along with friends and both influenced and were influenced by their peers in terms of how far they went in their involvement. However, peer influence was also seen as a “tug” factor by young people whose friends were not involved.
What authority figures were doing: the presence of adults, particularly parents, at the time of the riots was described as playing an important role in preventing some young people from getting involved."

"Personal factors related to young people’s values, experiences and prospects:
A criminal history: previous criminal behaviour was a facilitating factor in involvement in rioting and looting, though prior experience of being in trouble also acted as a deterrent.
Experience of the police: young people cited previous negative experiences of the police as a significant “nudge” factor to get involved in the riots.
Attitudes towards those with power and authority: there were expressions of anger and resentment about authority figures, particularly politicians. Engagement in formal politics was seen as irrelevant to young people. However, there was awareness of political issues among young people and particular anger about the MPs’ expenses scandal and the perceived greed of bankers.
Jobs, prospects and aspirations: young people and community stakeholders
made a distinction between young people who had a personal stake in The August riots in England: Understanding the involvement of young people 7 society and a sense of something to lose from any involvement in the riots and those who did not. Hope of a better future through current education and employment or an aspiration to work was seen as the main constituent of having something to lose. Alternatively, some young people felt that their prospects were so bleak that they had little to lose by their involvement."

"Family and community factors’ influence on relationships and identity:
Family attitudes and behaviour: how young people are brought up was viewed as very important both in preventing and encouraging bad behaviour: “My mum said: ‘Don’t you dare go outside the house.’ I was joking: ‘I could go and get myself some new trainers, I could get you some new trainers.’ And she just looked at me and I just put my head down in shame. She took it very serious. I was raised up properly.” (Young person, Peckham)
Attachment to a community: young people and community stakeholders described some neighbourhoods as having a prevailing culture of low-level criminality with negative attitudes towards the police and authority. Even young people who did not get involved themselves, talked about criminal behaviour being normalised: “Half of their mams and dads don’t work, half of them are bent, even I get to think it’s normal, just how it is and … I wasn’t brought up like that.” (Male, 18 and over, Salford)In contrast, young people also talked about the importance of belonging to a community (or a group or family within it) that opposed criminal behaviour. In particular, religion was mentioned as protecting them from getting involved: “If I did this, my God wouldn’t be happy, my parents wouldn’t be happy. I have a bright future, my record is good. Imagine I did something
that stupid, spoil my good reputation.” (Young person, Peckham)..."

"Societal factors related to broader social issues:
• Having a stake in the local area: young people who were involved in voluntary and community work alongside older people were clear that this meant they had not wanted “to trash their own backyard”. Other young people and community stakeholders identified a feeling that they were written off in their communities, a lost cause: “[They feel] excluded – no expectations/aspirations and lack of support … called scum – told it enough they believe it.” (Female, 18 and over, Salford)
Youth Provision: the immediate trigger of boredom and the desire for excitement was linked to a lack of legitimate things to do and places to go. Young people felt that they were a particular target for cuts in government spending with youth services cuts and the ending of Educational Maintenance Allowances (EMA).
Poverty and materialism: life for some people was described as a constant struggle. Young people talked about the difficulty of managing on the money they received when out of work or in training. At the same time, a materialistic culture was cited as having contributed to looting by both young people and community stakeholders. Participants from the unaffected area in Sheffield suggested that the starker contrast between rich and poor in London might mean that the disparity between young people’s material desires and what they could afford might be more pronounced."

  • "What happened in Peckham Interviewees described... Broadcasts on Blackberry Messenger (BBM) had been circulating from around 4pm. The first major incident to take place was a bus set on fire in Camberwell, which stopped all the bus routes through the area. At this stage riot police were blocking off part of Rye Lane, where running battles with police quickly developed. The atmosphere was described as “crazy”, but people also noted that those involved seemed to be enjoying themselves."
  • "The portrayal of events in news media was also described as a “nudge” factor. Young people talked about watching events in different parts of the country unfold on the news and local reporting on real time TV which showed “people getting away with it”, the police being outnumbered or responding in a low-key fashion. These news stories were described as having encouraged young people to get involved and creating a sense of momentum, often in combination with more direct, local information:I was watching the news on Monday and thought is it really this bad, and my sister phoned me and said that the [name of London road] was really bad, Me being nosy, I decided to leave my house and have a look, to see if it’s as bad as everyone is making out. (Young person, in custody)“People could either see it from their house or saw it on TV. It was easy to find out what was happening. Sky had a live update.” (Young person, Peckham)"
  • "However, for some young people the television and social media was a protective factor. That is, there were examples of people who described the television coverage as “scary”, and in some cases the social media messages gave information on areas to avoid which helped them to avoid involvement..."
  • "...the positive role social media had, as it was also used by communities to discourage rioting in their area. An example of this was a co-ordinated response by members of the community such as the police, local organisations and young people across Sheffield..."
  • "These young people thought getting a job was going to be hard because unemployment was so high in their neighbourhoods, and they knew people who had recently been laid off, but they still aspired to work. The same picture of local opportunities was described by other young people yet, having been unemployed since leaving school, concluded their prospects were bleak and work unlikely. These young people felt they had little to lose by their involvement."
Young people's accounts:
  • “We was just bored really and obviously nothing like this has ever happened for however long we have been alive. It was a first really, and we decided just to go up there just so we can say we had been there, not to act cool or anything, just to say, it is so big, it will probably be put in history, so we decided to go up there. We were that bored.” (Young person, Birmingham)
  • “It wasn’t to prove a point, just to get free stuff. Perhaps on the first day in Tottenham, people on the walk had a point to prove. Afterwards, it was just 
  • a laugh and to get free stuff. People didn’t care about getting caught. ... 
  • People didn’t plan it, it just happened. Because everyone was doing it, people 
  • thought it was OK to just take free stuff.” (Young person, Clapham Junction)
  • “One reason for the riots is anger with the police. People were wanting to get against the law for everything they have done. It was a chance. They wanted to show police what they could do. Many police round here are just doing their jobs but some are just rude. I have had my licence and ID questioned. I’ve been pulled over more than once.” (Young person, Tottenham)
  • Outside London, the shooting of Mark Duggan was referred to by young people, but as part of a chain of related events rather than the key causal factor. For example, young people interviewed in Birmingham were scornful that the rioting there had anything to do with what happened in London: “I was surprised when it started here [Birmingham], I thought what is the point of bringing something from over there [London] that has nothing to do with us? It was not related [to the shooting].” (Young person, Birmingham)

  • Young people also described seeing images of the riots and looting in other places where people appeared to be getting away with it. This coverage added weight to the notion that: “If they can do it there, we can do it here.” They put it on the news straight away. And basically, they just globalised it and let people know they could do what they want at this time and nothing would happen. So, to be honest, they just put their foot it in, really. And by showing it global, it spreaded round the country.” (Young person, Tottenham)
  • In contrast, there were also young people who described being on the streets during the riots, watching the group, but deciding not to get involved in antisocial behaviour. Some of these people described being able to counter impulsive “here-and-now thinking”, with thoughts about their future plans or long-term goals, and what they had to lose.
  • “The cops did their best, I mean 1000 people out there and 200 cops – that is like one man against the world. They did brilliant – look at how many 
  • [rioters] got caught. Why would I criticise them?” (Young person, Birmingham)
  • There was another view, however, that felt the police should have intervened 
  • more swiftly, with young people describing them looking on.
  • “In [Clapham] Junction, there were police officers there, but they chose to 
  • do nothing because they didn’t think they could hold all of them off. That’s 
  • why they introduced the plastic bullets to warn them off. I don’t think it was 
  • the amount of police there, its just that they chose not to do nothing.” 
  • (Young person, Clapham Junction)
  • By contrast, some young people talked about the importance of belonging to a community (or a group or family within it) that opposed criminal behaviour: “I didn’t get involved in the riots. I don’t really know why some people go down that route, as I didn’t myself. There are options. I guess I was lucky in that I had a lot of support at home, and a youth club from when I was still in primary. Have had a great life here. The community is alright. It isn’t so much the area that makes up your experience growing up here – it is your own individual circumstances. It depends on how tight a family you are and who you happen to meet. I have a stable family and that is important.” (Young person, Tottenham)
  • Improved employment opportunities were not just felt to be significant for giving young people more “hope” but also as a way to reduce the effect of peer pressure to get involved in crime, as this young man described: "More jobs would definitely help. If you have 50 youths living in Handsworth and even 40 out of that 50 [are] working, and I mean, if that 10 youths, the ones not working, link up with the 40, and say: ‘Let’s go at this store,’ the 40 most likely will say: ‘Nah man, I ain’t got no time for that, I got a job.’ And then the 10, they are such a small amount they ain’t going to do it by themselves.” (Young person, Birmingham)
  • In parallel with this situation of poverty and struggle, a materialistic culture that fostered greed amongst young people was also cited as a factor in the looting by both young people and community stakeholders. What they described was the gap between what was portrayed in the media as representing the “good life” to which people should aspire, and what young people in their communities could actually have, given the poverty of income and opportunity. “Those people without hope, they see others with these things, and they want them, getting trainers and stuff, TVs.” (Young person, Tottenham)

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