As new research by the University of Oxford suggests that the 2011 U.K. riots were linked to economic inequality and distrust of police, a contrite rioter-turned-community-organizer writes about the low feelings that drove him to join the aggressive free-for-all.

In The Guardian, former rioter Bryn Phillips says, “At the time I was living on the streets and suffering from depression. I had lost my job, my home, and I was angry with the world.”

You saw it happen on the news and read about it in the papers. Maybe you were told it was brought about by unbridled consumerism, or were fed the convenient deceit by politicians and the media that the disenfranchised poor of our nation were fighting the police and smashing up their neighbourhoods because they wanted a new pair of trainers. But this wasn’t the case. …

Martin Luther King said that when people feel they have no stake in society, they may unconsciously want to destroy it. Evidence now seems to substantiate this claim. Without that stake, without any status, the downtrodden poor lost their social inhibitions. They were no longer willing to take inequality and injustice lying down. And I say this from painful personal experience.

I was there in the London borough of Hackney as the riots broke out. I heard the furious voices of kids on our burning streets: angry about the phone-hacking scandal; angry about the MPs’ expenses scandal; angry about the bank bailouts; angry about police corruption and the abuse of stop-and-search powers. This was no party. And for most, it wasn’t about consumerism either — I saw a girl steal a pint of milk for her mum because she said her family were too poor to buy food.

Continue reading here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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