Tuesday, August 09, 2011

London Riots...a Womble for the day...

Actually I hate the term 'London Riots' - it should be 'London Looting'... and of course it's not just 'London'... In fact it's more like the UK's lowest common denominator all acting out their 'what I did on my summer holidays' essay - clearly putting it down in joined-up writing is out of the question.

I was transfixed by Twitter last night, I watched the #londonriots hash tag in dismay for hours as things spread and spread and spread, listening to the sirens crashing past us.  Brixton was spared a second night of looting - the first was bad enough though - that's the Footlocker on Brixton High Street, burned out.

I then discovered #riotcleanup and like hundreds of others thought that I had to do something - as someone said - last night we needed Superman, now we need the Wombles... so I headed to Clapham where a clean-up was planned.

What I love the most about this is that overnight, someone set up a twitter account, organised places to meet to clean up and actually did the thing.  At the start of the day the account had over 20,000 followers he now has 85,000+.  @riotcleanup is now organising people to meet in Enfield to clean up the Sony Centre and will no doubt be carrying on to organise cleanups in other cities... the man had 3 hours sleep last night if you were reading his tweets and absolutely deserves a medal.

Practically the only shop in Clapham that didn't have its windows smashed in was Waterstones - the book shop - which rather tells you all you need to know about the looters.  This was all about the TVs, trainers and telephones, not about civil rights or liberties or any of the things people riot for in other countries.

My favourite tweet of the day 'It's like Hogwarts, everyone getting off the train at Clapham is carrying a broom'.  I was initially quite embarrassed on the bus like some obsessive mad-woman with her brush but I wasn't alone, there were several people self-consciously hiding their bristles then getting braver and braver about waving them about as we got closer... it was all sort of beautiful and surreal and quite funny, given the shit circumstances.

Clapham didn't really need us to sweep up, the council had it well in hand and in the end it was a completely symbolic gesture; I guess we all just wanted to stand up and say 'fuck you' really. Not often you get to say 'fuck you' by waving 100 brooms in the air.

I managed to be in the group of 200 or so they let in to do the initial clean-up and after a bit of a wait while shopkeepers were allowed in, we headed down.  The theme of the day was to see two or three people crouched over some near-invisible splinters of glass with their dustpans, surrounded by cameras - there were almost as many media as cleaners (there's a massive camera lurking in the shadows to the left of that green van).  I did actually get to clear some glass though; I met a lovely girl on the bus on the way down and we bagged up some huge sheets of window between us... it's amazing how quickly 200 people can clean up a street.

We may not have been needed for the actual clean-up (at Clapham, anyway) but we were needed so we could stand up and be counted - there were hundreds more Wombles cleaning up today than there were rioters the night before, and that's a good thing.

It may have only been a gesture but at least it wasn't a two-finger 'fuck you', or a pathetic finger gun.  We're not just about the riots here, it's only the miserable little cretins who are about that.

All in all, I'm pretty happy to have been able to stand up and be counted. I came, I swept, I went home.

And now, I'm going to bed.


English Rider said...

I've been feeling horrified and ashamed of the behavior in Britain since this all started. There's nothing much I can do from here but cheer you on and tell you what a relief it is to read your post. This was never mentioned on the U.S. or French News stations that I watch every day.

Kathryn said...

Good.On.You!!! *applauds* Just good on you, from the other side of the world where I'm watching it on the news and thinking "What the fuck IS that?".

And I heard about the cleaning up today. So we've heard the bad and the good here.

Good on you.

Muddling Along said...

The whole tidying up thing made me really proud to see - after all the horridness of the previous evenings it was great to see that most people aren't like that and common decency can prevail

Well done you

Sparx said...

English Rider - such a shame that the response hasn't been picked up that much - it's been incredible. One person has really co-ordinated a response from the entire country via Twitter; pretty amazing what one person can do... it's been heartening.

Kathryn - glad to hear the positive stuff has made it somewhere! I really hope it's what's left behind at the end, the memory of people banding together to do something good...

Muddling Along - indeed, I totally agree; reports suggest that there were more cleaners than rioters - it's always the minority that spoil the world for the rest of us.

mummydinosaur said...

Good for you for heading down for the cleanup. We had our own shameful night of looting/vandalism (Vancouver) recently and I was so cheered by the hundreds who headed out the next morning to clean up (also organized through facebook). I think it shows that the looters and vandals are only a minority and most are appalled by this behaviour.