Having watched the events in Tottenham as they unfolded last night, prompted, of course, by Twitter, I couldn’t help but think about what it is that brings a community to a boiling point, seeing the pan tip and its contents spill over, causing destruction as it goes.
There has been a lot said in the media about the possible reasons for this happening; of course, the shooting of Mark Duggan last week, reports of a 16-year-old girl being beaten by the police during the protest, and even the withdrawal of youth clubs in the local area.
But I want to focus on the healing process, something that takes time but needs to be helped along in the right way from the outset to be effective.
A report in The Independent today, which holds a magnifying glass up to the Tottenham community’s reaction to the riot, quotes an unnamed, 18-year-old man, as saying: ‘Police know what they should have done, they should have come to speak to the community themselves. They don’t care.
‘You don’t get no opportunities around here. The police stop you because you’re black. They stop you because you’re wearing a hood.’
This seems to be a sentiment that was echoed through various reports, even before the protest and riot took place.
Now, of course, there are two sides to every story, and the police force has given its position. Met Police Commander, Adrian Hanstock, explained: ‘We kept a dignified presence at the vigil. Our preparation was in place and the contingence we had needed to be proportionate to the levels of concern we had in the community.’
There seems to be a level of disparity between the residents’ community concerns and those of the police force, which makes me question the communication channels being employed between the two parties and how well they are being used.
For this healing process to be a success, communication is vital. In the same way that the Brixton riots, during the 1980s, raised awareness of serious problems, in terms of the relationship between the police force and its local residents, I think there are lessons to be learned here too.
As local Tottenham MP, David Lammy, said in his statement: ‘A community that was already hurting has now had the heart ripped out of it.’
And so, heart must be put back in.
This doesn’t just fall to police engagement and resident cooperation, local businesses should also be lending a helping hand here.
There are great CSR opportunities for major brands, some of which, O2, Aldi, JJB Sport to name a few, have been directly affected by what happened during the violence last night, seeing shops burnt out and stock looted.
These companies, if not already, should be working in the local community to help get it get back on its feet, through developing partnerships with local resident associations and the police themselves.
It’s about looking to that old sense of community, which, effectively, benefits everyone.
Awful things have happened, they can’t be undone, but it’s about looking to how the Tottenham community can now set about healing itself.