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London Riots, 2011 Destroy More Than Historical Buildings

Updated on August 21, 2011

In the opening paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens writes, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” That was over 100 years ago and, although this particular piece of literature, which took place on the streets of London and Paris, referenced the wide chasm between the peasants and aristocrats during the French Revolution, one has to reflect on how applicable the opening lines are in our modern day living.

We live in a world filled with chaos and confusion. Within the storm systems of hurricanes, tsunamis, drought and earthquake devastation our economy hangs precariously on the edge of a cliff like a Humpty Dumpty tale.


Duggan is the spark that set the inferno

Our youth are lost and in despair. In this month alone violent riots took place in major cities across England, including London, Bristol, Liverpool and Medway. It may have stemmed from the incident in which a 29 year old man, Mark Duggan, was killed by police during an arrest, but it revealed a much greater societal wound-that of the ever widening gap between those who have and those who have not.

Duggan, an alleged crack cocaine dealer, was reported to have fired the first shot, causing a reaction from the authorities. However, on investigation by the IPCC, (Independent Police Complaints Commission), it appears that the bullets that were recovered were not from Duggan’s handgun. One can only assume that in the frenzy of the arrest the officers involved were unmindful that this was a human being first, not just a wanted gang member.

Similarities to Rodney King Riots in 1992

The London riots are similar to the riots in April of 1992, in the United States, when four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted for their alleged beating of resident Rodney King. In a video tape taken by a bystander there is clear footage of the over use of violence from the L.A. P.D. and this blatant disregard for justice outraged the community.

In both of these cases there were attempts to wait for proper justice to be served, but there was a blind eye and deaf ear shown for the victim and family members. The result was an explosion of outrage and violence that literally became an inferno. A mob within the community took matters into their own hands.

Riots, including widespread arson, brought property damage, injury and deaths in the 2011, London mayhem, totaled five civilian deaths and over 100 injured officers, along with several injured citizens; while in L.A., California, the 1992 riots ended with over 2,000 injured people and over 7,000 set fires. Estimated property damage in the U.S. riots was approximately 1 billion dollars.

Irreplaceable Damage

Like any multilayered system the cause of the riots is not solely from the incident between police officers acting inhumanely and their victim, but it becomes the proverbial ‘last straw’ in a time that is already heavy with discontent. Social analysts who have reviewed the riots have speculated that a combination of gang mentality/opportunity, unemployment, poverty, and the obvious insensitivity and injustice for the victim, are all contributing factors for the volcanic eruption.

No matter what the reasons cited, the ever widening socio-economic gap between the rich and the poor spilled into the streets. And, no matter what country riots of the poor occur, it is a protest out of frustration and hopelessness.

After three days and two nights of burning, looting and beatings in cities across England, irreparable damage has been done to historical buildings and businesses, as well as the relationship between the police, who were supposed to act as protection, and the community. You cannot get back what has been destroyed.


1. 2011 England Riots,; retrieved August 11, 2011

2. Rodney King,; retrieved August 11, 2011


Two decades and an ocean separate the countries of England and the United States yet the problems that came from an over reaction of police during the arrests of Rodney King and Mark Duggan are similar in many ways. Like a match thrown on kindling, the poor judgement and extensive force from the police resulted in riots that lasted for several days. The end result is property damage and the destruction of lives and buildings, which will never be replaced.

Unemployment, poverty, frustration, hopelessness, despair...whatever the reasons are the two videos could just as well be one. It makes one stop and ask, "have we learned anything from the past?"

Los Angelas, California Riots in 1992

London Riots, 2011

Please take the poll

Do you think there are similarities between the riots of 1992 in the U.S. and the London riots of 2011?

See results

Destruction in Major Cities

Liverpool, England:
Liverpool, UK

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London, England:
Westminster, London, UK

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Nottingham, England:
Nottingham, UK

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Bristol, England:
Bristol, City of Bristol, UK

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Medway, England:
Medway, UK

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    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Micky-hope you are doing ok through this wild weather. Not sure what part of NC you are in, but we got walloped in Pit and Hertford Counties.

      Thanks for reading the London Riot hub. I totally agree-much better to make peace not war! It is sad when people feel they have to resort to looting! Take care.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      9 years ago

      Nicely done Denise. I can't see violence or destruction. Creating makes sense. destroying is nonsense. Thank you dear.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Yes, CJ...the rich are getting richer due to all of the tax breaks they have gotten for years; while the poor and middle class are shouldering the burden and not receiving those same considerations. They just did a huge story about this here in the US from ABC. It is sickening. This has been going on for decades, however, with the crash in the stock market in '08 and the most recent dip, it is even harder on folks.

      It's evident that the middle and lower socioeconomic level has narrowed and soon, unfortunately, will level out. Then it will be the rich and 'those who are not'.

      BTW-I attempted to link your hub with mine or add it as a capsule and there is something going on right now and I'm unable to 'save' the changes. I am querying Jason for assistance. Will add it when it is fixed.

      Thanks for your additional comments.

    • CJStone profile image

      Christopher James Stone 

      9 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Denise, the revealing fact is that the gap between rich and poor is widening, and that the rich are getting richer, even as the austerity programme takes effect. Thanks for commenting on my hub.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      soumyasrajan-first, thank you for taking the time to read the hub. Second, that you feel so strongly about this problem and explained it from your perspective so well, I appreciate that. You have made some good points. I think that there is a truth to your point that a minimal life style was being provided...and thus, appeasing the general public, and when that was lost the dissatisfaction grew wild-like the roar of a hungry lion. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

      CJStone-thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I will definitely read your work. I agree that the potential is there to touch all countries world wide, but in countries such as ours, especially. Those countries where the shift in the socio-economic gap is ever widening-it frightens me. I appreciate your thoughts.

    • CJStone profile image

      Christopher James Stone 

      9 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      I agree with this line in particular Denise: "No matter what the reasons cited, the ever widening socio-economic gap between the rich and the poor spilled into the streets." I think it a phenomenon we will see more and more of, not just in the UK, but throughout the world in the coming years. You can read my views on the riots here:

      Thanks for your thoughtful reflections on the matter.

    • profile image


      9 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      Nicely expressed sentiments and concern Denise about these unfortunate events! I have felt that in general peaceful atmosphere in Europe, UK and USA over last few decades has been mainly due to one aspect. A culture, political atmosphere, and business and technological environment was built up in which every working person felt confident that a minimal life style to his/her family can be provided with his/her earnings. People give all sort of reasons, left, right, philosophy, religion, cultural or technical superiority but I feel the main reason was this minimal style of life being provided.

      I do not think that the minimal life style phenomena has got destroyed yet despite this big financial turmoil. Nor do I feel that economic turmoil still is that strong to destroy this. But some how the way politicians, mainstream media and press people, business leaders, union leaders have acted during last few years, the confidence that this will continue has eroded a little. It is quite unfortunate that some of this part of top echelon has degenerated to this level. But still I am at least hopeful that better people will manage things (in India as well as in these countries- in countries like India a lot of mess was created precisely because this culture of minimal life style never got built up, despite it having much better resources than some of these countries, again mainly because of pathetic style of top echelon. But now a realization at least towards this goal is getting built up in India).

      What may be worrying is that just a small erosion of this confidence can create such riots. Though even this does not explain completely the phenomena. There are stories that people who were even a bit better off in London took part in riots and looting and destruction was focus. Perhaps feeling of being left out of enjoyment of gadgets and glamour generated by style of news adopted by main stream media and press (trp ratings perhaps worries them more than their duty) and exploitation of this destructive style of media and press by political and union leaders may also be responsible for it. Though one only tends to blame the police. TV today does not give much to a person but tells a lot about what you are missing -often of course quite unreal coming from world of glamour etc.

      If you look at earlier era riots in LA, one can see that phenomena which may have been responsible for it was that African Americans may not have felt confident about this minimal life style till that time. It is good to see that that situation has somewhat changed in USA.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks for your feedback here, Cara. :)

    • cardelean profile image


      9 years ago from Michigan

      It is a very concerning time in our world as a whole and I agree with the previous comments that there is such potential for this sort of explosiveness to happen here in the States. My father in law has said that soon there will be no more middle class that it will be the rich and the poor and it looks more and more like that each day. It is a very scary and uncertain time that we live in today. Society in general really needs to get their priorities in check.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Thoughtsandwiches-thanks for reading and commenting. I don't know why the comparison stood out for me at this time, but it did.

      Pamela-it is amazing and disheartening. Don't know the answer to your question but you're right-the world is a much different place now. Explosive!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      9 years ago from Sunny Florida

      We are seeing so much violence is so many countries now that it is frightening. It is sad to see what has happened in England and your hub gives some excellent information. I saw on TV where some of the rioters weren't poor and disenfranchised at all but rather wealthy. What makes them act that way??

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image


      9 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Hi Denise...I have been following the developments, like any junkie would...(of news I mean)...As such, the details had effectively taken over the larger narrative. Your excellent Hub has reminded me of the larger picture involved. Having lived in California at the time...yeah...messed up. I hope our cousins across the pond get it together.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks Nell for your comments. It is ridiculous isn't it? Like letting a teen rule-NO WAy! LOL What they need and ask for indirectly is for someone to love them enough to set limits.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      9 years ago from England

      Hi, I read in the paper today that an English girl, I think she was 14 or 15 has been arrested for stealing in the riots, her father was really mad at her, but as he told the police, what could he do to stop her going out? the rules in this nanny state we call England are ridiculous. corporal punishment was stopped in schools 20 odd years ago, maybe more, and we are not allowed to smack our children or even touch them, to make them sit down, the children can call the police and have the parents arrested for assault! I saw it coming, we have been told to treat children like adults from an early age, and the children, being treated like friends instead of being disciplined by their parents, will obviously rebel like they would if they were playing with friends there own age. Children are children, and should be treated as such, this was bound to happen, I was just waiting to see it arrive, great hub cheers nell

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks JS-it was such a shock to me when I first saw it and yet, I am aware of the poverty and the effects of the economy so it wasn't out of the realm of possibilities. Sad, but yes...wonderful that others have jumped in to clean up. Thanks for reading.

    • JSParker profile image


      9 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

      A very timely hub, Denise. I had not considered the connection to the LA riots prior to reading this. Thanks for taking on this difficult story. I am encouraged to see the "Anti-Riot" surge of kind people and willing volunteers reacting to the evil destruction. Hope prevails.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Jonathon-it is amazing how little concern some of us have for social issues when we are teens caught up in the world that is most important to us...and suddenly, when we are immersed in this very adult world our perspectives change re: the importance of what is going on around us, not about us. You are right, about the precariousness of the future with all of the unrest. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Spiritwhisper-thanks for stopping by and giving your feedback. It is right on the brink now, of collapse, isn't it...Thanks for the vote.

      Ubanichijioke-thank you for taking an interest in reading this and becoming aware. God Bless.

      AliciaC-I so appreciate your comments because of your insiders view. One can only sympathize of the plight and assume in an analytical way that one knows...sort of. But, I do not live there and therefore I am only going by what research I can obtain. It appears as if history is repeating itself in many we never learn to treat each other with humanity???

      Hi Cloverleaf-ditto my comment to Alicia to you. I did read Annie's hub and it is always the 'responsible' ones left to clean up the messes, isn't it?

      My goodness writer-etc. with the ditto comment to the above two ladies. I really appreciate your feedback. It is a sad commentary on us as humans...acting more like animals. Where is the 'civilty' in this civilization? Thanks for reading.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 

      9 years ago from Southern Nevada

      I lived in Los Angeles during those awful riots Originally coming from England London's riots fell the same to me.

    • Cloverleaf profile image


      9 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

      Being originally from England these riots really hit home and make me feel very saddened and embarassed.. I was just reading a new great hub by annmackiemiller on the same subject - it's at least comforting to see people coming together and doing something positive in the clean-up.


    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      9 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for this hub, Denise. The rioting is a frightening insight into the tensions and frustrations felt by socially disadvantaged people. I was born in Bristol and have relatives there. Although I no longer live in Britain I still feel a strong connection to the country. I hope that some very necessary changes are made in British society after the rioting is finished, but I have my doubts that this will happen.

    • ubanichijioke profile image

      Alexander Thandi Ubani 

      9 years ago from Lagos

      A great insight into the events that is happening. I thank you for bringing this information to my notice and hope that issues be properly addressed. Hope things turn out for the better. Bless you

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 

      9 years ago from Isle of Man

      Yes, Denise you have your finger on the pulse all right and there is a very big social tsunami approaching. The rich can no longer secure their positions and the walls that once protected them are now crumbling. Thank you. Voted up and awesome.

    • Jonathan Janco profile image

      Jonathan Janco 

      9 years ago from Southport, CT

      I hope a peace can be reached here. Back in the days of the LA riots of '92 I was a teenager and I was not really phased by the level of violence happening there and elsewhere in the country. After a variety of experiences over the years, I find it worriesome to think of people resorting to this. I cant help but feel such rioting would only please those who look to create a more draconian state and in a sense police the widening income gap. I wish the best for all those in England to stay safe and strong.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks for commenting Annie-I know what you mean. I am watching that on the news as well. It has been pointed out more than once that there are many young people who have gotten swept up in the event and adults who are asking, "where are the parents?" But, it is more than just gang opportunity. It's a war whoop. People are disgruntled and fed up.

      Danette-Thanks for your feedback. I recall a similar conversation with dad. You know, he was so astute when it came to putting the big picture together years in advance. He predicted Obama winning and years and years ago before he left the Tool and Die shop he saw the writing on the wall and moved out of that industry.

      It is a frightening time we live in and we haven't seen it to the end. Revolution is clearly not a figament of the imagination. It is a reality that would not take much of anything to lean it in that direction.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      It could happen here. Dad told me once there would be another revolution, this one between the haves and have nots but that he would not live to see it and perhaps not me, but the kids' generation for sure. He told me this about 8 years ago and I agreed with him then and I definitely see it coming now. The US govt/ Obama admin. should be concerned that the English's behavior doesn't get picked up over here.

    • annmackiemiller profile image


      9 years ago from Bingley Yorkshire England

      Voted up and awesome Denise - we are seeing two sides of the English just now, the rioters and the ones with the brooms coming to help clean up.


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