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Riots and youth in the UK: a cry for help?

London and other UK cities suffered the riots from 6th August to 10th August 2011 following a peaceful march asking for justice for the shooting of Mark Duggan by the Metropolitan Police Service in Tottenham, North London.


Shanta Sultana


The rioters looted, burned buildings and destroyed shops, properties and institutions such as the Sony archives. It spread to Bristol, the Midlands and the North West and six people have died.

Many were injured and property damage was estimated at two hundred million. With severe damage to businesses it was said to be the reaction of ‘mindless’ criminals.

The Prime Minster David Cameron said a pocket of British society is sick and broken and pledged to tackle the “Moral collapse” and wage war against gang culture.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwell controversially called it “Youth crying for help” and the Labour Leader Ed Miliband accused the Prime Minster of making shallow and simplistic explanations and asked for a national enquiry for the cause of violence.

The Prisma interviewed some young people aged 14-25 to know what they think were the real causes of the riots. All of them attended the protestLondon burning youth demand future” on 16th August.

With 54 jobseekers for every vacancy in London, the unemployed youth in Tottenham, the flashpoint of the riot expressed their opinions on the violence.

Lewis Raul


Age 16. Ethnic origin:  South American Peruvian. Completed G.C.S.E. Waiting to start College.

The riot kicked off due to the death of Mark Duggan. I am not sure of the whole story of the incident however there was anger. But later most of the rioters were opportunist and other cities took the opportunity.

I don’t approve of the looting, stealing and the violence but they were showing what they were actually trying to say to the government. I don’t fully agree how they were saying it; especially the looting is something that I don’t approve. But there are other ways to protest and speak to the government.

Basically it has a lot to do with the treatment by the police; I have seen a lot of police power. I have friends who told me how they were treated by the police because of their racial origin. For example I was in a peaceful protest on the 30th of June and I got stopped thirty times and I was searched about fourteen times. However the white people who were in the protest were not stopped or searched. The black youth are treated the same. It’s because of my skin colour and the hair cut or I wear certain kind of clothing; I like to be in black. White people I know would be in the same hair cut or in black but they would get away. But black people would be seen with suspicion too. The police immediately assume I am causing trouble. The behaviour of the police is… It is as if the police is the gang! It is abuse of power.

I live in a somewhat rough area and I have seen people who are members of the gang and I have met gang members in the street. They are in the gangs because they are brought up in bad environments. I am blessed for being brought up in a stable environment but lot of these people are from bad backgrounds and they join the gang for protection. But the anger is not because of the gang activities; people join the gangs for personal support in deprived environments.

The recent cuts will affect me because of raised tuition fees for higher education. I am planning to go to college and thinking of paying back thirty thousand pounds affects my aspiration. These cuts will cause a lot of frustration in people. This riot is nothing; I can see people on the bottom are getting angry and worse things to come. This was just a start, the government should understand that.

Its true there were opportunists in the riot but people are blaming the youth without realising that it is the people aged between 20-30 who organised the riot and encouraged the youth. The rest just followed. I wouldn’t blame the teenagers.

The teens don’t really know what real looting and rioting is and if they are caught they will be very sorry. But there is always a reason why teens are following the organised rioting.

The riot started with race issue; the Asians, black etc but the real reason of the riot is not race. What they should see is it has nothing to do with colour or age. It’s about speaking to the authority. Some people are brought up bad and the reasons altogether made a situation.

Every teen and adult wasn’t born with evil. If the teens don’t have respect they should think what the adults have done. They should think what the parents have done; the youth in question have a lot of bad parenting and negligence. It is lack of education in the rough communities that has created lots of bad parents and the government should think why these parents are not educated.


Identity undisclosed. Age 14. Ethnic origin: White British. In education.

I don’t approve of the riot but the riot happened because they have nothing to do. It’s because of the recent cuts; they are frustrated and the youth have no help. It has nothing to do with race however they should have marched.

Ulger Fatos

Age 25. Ethnic origin: Turkish Kurdish. Graduated from South Bank University in International Relations and searching for jobs but in vain. Prospective Postgraduate Student.

From a historical prospective, looking at the protest in 1985 we can say that the government has created its own criminals. I believe it is leading to change. It has got to be done; I foresaw the riots; I predicted the riot. Since 1985 there have been constant cuts in the public sector, for example shutting the youth clubs. It is a disappointing political approach.

The poor have been discriminated for years especially people from the ethnic minority groups and this is the result.

If you don’t give enough education and enough support to the youth they will get involved in gang culture because that’s the easiest way to find self identity. Closing the youth clubs means the youth has to find some other shelter. The increased tuition fee for higher education is discouraging for the impoverished youth and without youth clubs they have nowhere else to go to find human contact and advice. Youth from rough background: where would they go for mental support?

With the new system and cuts: All I see is lack of opportunity for humanity!

Tas Dilan

Age 18. Etnic origin: Turkish Kurdish. Prospective University Student.

I predicted the riot sometime ago as these cuts were being implemented. No one could stop the youngsters.

I can’t stereotype people but I must say I was brought up in a supportive family who believe in education and have work ethics. Not everybody is in the same situation. If a young person isn’t able to guide oneself what will the young person do? The riot and looting are the result of helpless youth society.

The younger generation have a lot of responsibilities to rise and help this country.

The government needs to listen. They can’t be blaming the youth for being immoral after shutting down the youth clubs and raising higher education fee to 9 grand. The youth are the country’s future but we people are seeing the dark future; more rioting.

Amiri Balach

Age 15. Ethnic origin: Other Asian. G.C.S.E. Student.

The riot is the result of the manifestation of the stupidity of the government. The media and the government are focusing on the looting and the burning. But that wasn’t the real motive of the riot. The reason it went into such crime is because they were from deprived areas. They did things like stealing bottles of water or toilette paper. They actually didn’t have the motive to steal big things like rob a bank but then there was that possibility of getting away with the Plasma TV. If you think, I mean they are in a stage of stealing toilet paper or water!

The riot is because of the recession growing in the UK and the youth are angry. There are voices to be heard but looting and burning isn’t the way. However if a riot wakes them up-so be it!

It is about cuts and racism as well. The cuts on youth services and closing down youth centres lead to gang violence. I grew up in a youth club and it got me off the street.

Gang violence exists in every country but that’s not an excuse for the government to take things away. I can’t speak for gangs but gang culture is more a territorial issue. You have the Peckham boys protecting their territory from the East Enders and so on. It is not about that, it has a lot to do with racial discrimination. I have been stopped and searched on many occasions and have been detained because of my skin colour. My White mates beside me have been overlooked. The blacks and Asians are always viewed as the drug dealers. On one occasion I was sitting in Hyde Park relaxing with my mates and I was searched yet my mate wasn’t a concern because he is white.  They always think I am either a terrorist or a drug dealer and I am 15. It makes me feel annoyed but I have learnt to accept it. We have to beat down the system and we need to educate the communities.

Henry Ryan

Stage Name Young  Deccan. Age 17. Ethnic origin: Mix Caribbean. Modern poet and  performer.

I don’t condone the violence. Riots are just small spillage of a boiling pot. Taken away the youth clubs and education bound to create anger. The UK born Rapper from Iraqi heritage Rapa Loukay says ‘Respect existence or expect resistance’. By raising the tuition fees the government is working towards resistance.

The riot is class related however there is a clear difference between the races. I have personal experiences. A very mild example is I was walking back from a party recently and I was dressed up.

The police surrounded me three times. As they were staring at me I was staring back but that was it however it gets lot worse. Nevertheless race is a small aspect of it, rioting was a reaction of the working class.

It is true a lot of them want easy staff. It is the mind-set because of the people they look up to is the looters themselves. The bankers want their bonuses and the private companies want to grab state services, riot is the reflection of the behaviour of the big looters.

It is true a lot of them don’t wanna work and they want easy stuff but you have to look at the reasons why this mind-set was created. The modernistic society is created on the idea of looting like the crown jewels stolen from Africa.

Jobs are very hard to find because of the cuts. They don’t get any reply, there is no response about the next step and it is frustrating and irritating. With no one to turn to they become frustrated and irritated. A lot of these people don’t have the fighting spirit and their spirit concentrates on the wrong areas. They are failed by the system.

I am blessed and was brought up with values. So it has a lot to do with parenting and education. However I don’t blame the parents because the parents have lost the power of discipline. The teachers have lost respect and they don’t have the right to discipline the children anymore. The lack of respect is due to the system that has taken away the authority from the teachers and parents. Loss of respect is the faculty of troublesome youth. But you have to ask why, what system has created fear in parents and teachers about disciplining and giving values to the children.


Identity disclosed. Aged 16. Ethnic Origin: African. Student.

A lot of the rioters were opportunist however its nonsense that the youth are blamed when adults were involved too. It is about taking away the youth services and youth from bad environment have nothing to do.

The Prisma heard a common cry: ‘Bring back the youth services; Youth needs state funded help’.

And we also learnt that many youth aspire for higher education however severely poor society lacks the ability of dreaming about a stable future let alone paying back thirty thousand pounds.

The main issue seems to be unemployment, inability to aspire and the most fundamental necessity for the children: love and discipline.

The unemployed youth indirectly told The Prisma that they want discipline, they want to have respect and they want to be loved.

They also enquired why the previous generation from the working class culture were not given enough education in parenting and values. Redundancy, no jobs and closed Youth clubs were the main points of discussion.

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