Guardian report reveals insights into London rioters’ motivations

By Rebecca Davis 7 December 2011

UK newspaper the Guardian has been carrying out a study into the cause of the London riots in collaboration with the London School of Economics. The results paint a picture of a city with stark racial divisions. By REBECCA DAVIS.

“Reading the Riots” is an important project because it is currently the only study of its kind that is based on interviews with the actual people who took part in the riots. It was inspired by a similar study which took place after the Detroit riots in 1967. Over the course of the last three months, researchers employed by the paper and the LSE have been carrying out intensive interviews with 270 people involved in the riots, who were identified largely through local contacts. All the interviewees were promised anonymity, and the Guardian reports that they were largely enthusiastic about participating because they wanted their side of the story to be told.

“Their side of the story” turns out to reflect a great deal of anger towards the police. The study thus far has revealed that one of the major factors which sparked the riots in August was antipathy towards the Metropolitan Police force. The majority black rioters were shown to be eight times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than other Londoners. The study arrived at this figure because official police figures say they carry out 8.7 stops per 100 people, whereas most interviewees said they had been stopped either once a month or twice a week. One man interviewed reported that he had been stopped “seven times in the last 72 hours”.

Their anger was not merely with the fact that they were stopped, but the manner in which they were treated by police once they were. Interviewees claimed they had been handled in a “humiliating and degrading” way, which sometimes included verbal insults and strip-searching. Many also claimed that they were stopped with no greater justification than the fact that they were wearing hoodies.

The response thus far from the police to the findings has been defensive, describing “stop and search” as “a highly effective and essential tactic to prevent people being hurt by knife crime”. Police did state, however, that they wanted to see the tactic “only used in an intelligent, professional, objective and courteous way”.

In response to the Guardian’s report, the government’s own panel examining the riots said although some of the paper’s findings mirrored their own, rioters’ motivations also included “the perception that they could loot without consequence”. Other causes they identified included “youth unemployment, the role of brands and consumerism, values and parenting”. Former top police official Brian Paddick was also insistent on the need to examine underlying causes, rather than merely focusing on anger with the police. He cited “inequality, poor housing and unemployment” as also contributing to the powder-keg of discontent which exploded into rioting.

The “Reading the Riots” findings thus far only represent the first phase of the paper’s research, however. The second phase, scheduled for completion early next year, takes in interviews with police, court officials and judges. It may be that a different picture emerges from this to counter these first findings. DM

Read more:

  • Reading the Riots: ‘Humiliating’ stop and search a key factor in anger towards police, in the Guardian.



Watch Pauli van Wyk’s Cat Play The Piano Here!

No, not really. But now that we have your attention, we wanted to tell you a little bit about what happened at SARS.

Tom Moyane and his cronies bequeathed South Africa with a R48-billion tax shortfall, as of February 2018. It's the only thing that grew under Moyane's tenure... the year before, the hole had been R30.7-billion. And to fund those shortfalls, you know who has to cough up? You - the South African taxpayer.

It was the sterling work of a team of investigative journalists, Scorpio’s Pauli van Wyk and Marianne Thamm along with our great friends at amaBhungane, that caused the SARS capturers to be finally flushed out of the system. Moyane, Makwakwa… the lot of them... gone.

But our job is not yet done. We need more readers to become Maverick Insiders, the friends who will help ensure that many more investigations will come. Contributions go directly towards growing our editorial team and ensuring that Daily Maverick and Scorpio have a sustainable future. We can’t rely on advertising and don't want to restrict access to only those who can afford a paywall subscription. Membership is about more than just contributing financially – it is about how we Defend Truth, together.

So, if you feel so inclined, and would like a way to support the cause, please join our community of Maverick Insiders.... you could view it as the opposite of a sin tax. And if you are already Maverick Insider, tell your mother, call a friend, whisper to your loved one, shout at your boss, write to a stranger, announce it on your social network. The battle for the future of South Africa is on, and you can be part of it.


Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or if you are already an Insider.


The House rises ahead of elections in a last sitting marked by tragedy and electioneering

By Marianne Merten

Sushi is traditionally eaten by hand and not with chopsticks.