Letter from the editor: A dangerous path to tread


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The Independent Online

It was very moving to see the Sikhs of Southall coming out on to the streets to protect their place of worship.

Their action followed that of Turkish and Bangladeshi shopkeepers in east London, who chased would-be looters out of Whitechapel and Dalston.

Throughout Britain, neighbourhood groups are banding together to defend not only their communities but also their vision of what life in this country should be like: free of fear and violence. It’s an indication – and a heart-warming one – of the fierce opposition people feel towards the rioters and the terrifying chaos they have brought to our streets. However, it is also very, very dangerous.

Whoever is behind these riots has absolutely no respect for life and property. We’ve seen that in the pictures and video footage over the past few days. No matter how well armed you think you may be with a baseball bat, or a ceremonial sword, there will be someone out there with a car or a van or a machete who has no compunction about doing you serious harm.

But vigilantism can also be seen as an indication that the people believe the authorities have failed to police the society that elects and pays them, and for that reason alone, it is a dangerous path to tread. Let the police do their job. They may not do it to your satisfaction, but it is their duty to maintain law and order. As for the politicians, David Cameron has already skipped neatly out of harm’s way by telling the police they may use water cannon and plastic bullets. The fact that water cannon and baton rounds may prove unworkable will not come back to haunt Mr Cameron - the police will be blamed instead.

Stay safe!

Stefano Hatfield is away