Last week a small crowd gathered in front of a London Police Station in Tottenham, demanding answers to the police shooting of Mark Duggan, an alleged drug dealer who police say shot at them first. However, forensic evidence has so far only found police ammunition used at the scene.
As the police continued to ignore the crowd for hours, all hell suddenly broke loose with two police cars being set on fire and sparking the latest London riots.
This isn’t the first time that Blighty’s capital has been the epicentre of an outbreak of public anger turned riotous. To this day there have been quite a number of riots or protests involving violent disorder at the heart of the Commonwealth.
The first riot occurred way back in 1189 with the Massacre of the Jews at the coronation ceremony of Richard I. All Jews and women were banned from the crowning, but some Jewish leaders still arrived on the day to present gifts to the new king. They were thrown out of Court and a rumour circulated through the people that Richard had ordered all Jews to be killed. As the rumour mill continued grinding, the people of London started a Jewish massacre.
The riot was timed just before Richard departed for his crusade, and realising that the uproar could destabilise his realm while he was away, he ordered an end to the riots and persecutions, and distributed a royal writ to leave the Jews alone.
Other notable riots in England’s capital include the 1196 riots that started when William Firz Osbert (also known as “the bearded”) began preaching as an advocate of the poor. More than 52,000 supporters stock-piled weapons throughout the city to enhance their rioting and help them break into the houses of the rich.
There were then two historical riots in Spittalfields in the East-end of London, one in 1719 when weavers began attacking women wearing Indian clothing, and another in 1769 as silk workers rioted in a desperate attempt to protect their pay rates.
Colonial anger overspilled in the Battle of Bow Street in 1919 when servicemen from Australia, America and Canada rioted against a small group of Metropolitan Police Officers who had tried to arrest some servicemen for openly gambling in a game of dice.
Brixton was the epicentre for riots in 1981, 1985 and 1995, the last of which occurred due to the death of Wayne Douglas while in police custody. He had been arrested for robbing a couple at knifepoint while they were in bed.
Rioting and looting can only occur when a momentum begins and a large number of people band together, and for whatever reason, they feel they have more to gain than they have to lose.