After the riots: “it could happen again”, says Hackney

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When rioting broke out in Hackney in August, businesses in several parts of the borough became targets for looters and vandals.

There were nearly 12 hours of disturbances on August 8, with shops near Hackney Downs  and central Hackney  suffering major damage.

According to a joint report issued by police and Hackney Council,  16 businesses were looted or damaged between 4.30pm and 3.00am.

The reverberations from that weekend are still felt by shop owners three months on, both emotionally and commercially.

The shooting of Mark Duggan by police in Tottenham has been widely cited as the cause for the violence that spread across London and into other areas of the UK.

A poll of 2,000 people by Ipsos MORI showed many people in Hackney could identify with the way his family felt.

However, the report also suggested that the alleged assault on a 16-year-old girl by police in Tottenham during the peaceful protest that followed was the ‘spark’ that caused the rioting by many.

Hackney residents also told Ipsos MORI that other issues, such as unemployment, government disengagement and the attitude of the police towards the local community, were underlying causes of anger and frustration.

One resident of Pembury Estate, who did not wish to be named, said: “Three months on from the riots, 18 to 24-year-olds still have no jobs, so they are within their rights to riot and they should. Something has to be done and the government is not doing anything. There should be another riot.”

This is not a sentiment shared by the businesses in the area, but they do feel similar rioting could happen again.

Steve Plummer, 41, Assistant Manager of Somerfield on Lower Clapton Road, said: “There could be a repeat, but I cannot say when. The investigation into the death of Smiley Culture might cause things to kick off.”

Waihoo Choi, 37, Manager of Phones 4U on Mare Street, added: “We did not see it coming [this time], so I think it could happen again. I think it would be more controlled though.”

On August 8, police urged businesses and shops to close early, saying that disturbances were likely to be worse that night than the preceding days. Nevertheless, many businesses were still ransacked.

One such business was Harris Electrical on Lower Clapton Road.

Debbie Harris, 40, a director of the company, said: “We had heard something was happening and we needed to shut up, but there were already lots of boys in hoodies outside with baseball bats. We closed at 5.30pm. By 6.30pm we had been broken into and it took the police 45 minutes to arrive.

“We managed to get the shop boarded up, which cost over £2,000, but at 3.30am we had another call from the alarm company to tell us we had been broken into again.”

While the physical damage has been repaired, the emotional damage remains. The business was established 90 years ago by Harris’ great-grandfather and has been a fixture of Hackney since.

“It affected me emotionally more than I thought it would,” she said. “You think you are tough and that you could handle this kind of thing, but I was really upset.”

The police reaction in the aftermath did not impress Harris: “They were good to start with, but that was it. They came to tell us about arrests, but only for the first few weeks.”

This story was echoed across businesses in the area. Mr Budi, of First Edition newsagents on Lower Clapton Road, said: “Police came in to check our CCTV, but that was it.”

Plummer had a similar experience: “We didn’t get any help from the police, they only wanted to watch our CCTV.”

All were impressed, however, with the support they received from Hackney Council, which has reduced business rates for six months for small firms.

Nevertheless, trade is still suffering. Budi said: “It is a bit quiet because people are still scared. It’s not something that normally takes place.”

Choi added: “The first month was very bad, business was very quiet. But it’s been three months now, so hopefully everything is back to normal and everyone will have a good Christmas.”

This week, EastLondonLines is investigating the effects of the London riots on Lewisham, Hackney, Croydon and Tower Hamlets three months on.


One Response

  1. Tabby Kinder November 16, 2011

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