Riots 'likely to happen again' unless action is taken to heal divisions between teenagers and authorities, panel predicts


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The Independent Online

Riots like those which rocked England last year are likely to happen again in the future unless action is taken to heal the divisions between teenagers and the authorities, according to a panel of young people who have been looking into the impacts of the disturbances.

The group said that another incident like the shooting of Mark Duggan or an issue like the tuition fees row could spark off another spate of disturbances because, they said, “the mindset cannot be changed in the course of one government”. But, they said, the situation seemed to have calmed for now.

The panel, which has been working with the Children’s Society, said that things were improving but some of the scars of last year’s riots were still visible in their own communities.

“I know my area has developed a lot over the past year, it has become a really nice place, it is more like a tourist attraction now. It is really nice, things are getting better,” said Beatrice Fowowe, 14, from Woolwich in south east London.

But she added: “There are shops which were looted and burned out which have not been repaired, I don’t know if they ever will be repaired.”

The group said they would like to see more activities for young people, which are threatened by government cuts, an improvement in their relationship with police and politicians and a more accurate portrayal in the media, all of which could help prevent similar disturbances.

A survey they conducted found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that their peers thought the two main drivers behind the riots were the shooting of Mr Duggan and the wider state of mistrust between the police and young people. But the panel added that, while many of the people involved in the riots were genuinely angry, they thought their involvement was born more out of opportunism, bolstered by their sense of injustice.

Kim Emenike, 13, said: “People just wanted to riot, it had little to do with the government, I don’t think people were thinking about the fees issue during the riots.” Rasheeda Miller said, a 14-year-old panel-member, said: “It all added to their excuse, the anger added to the reasons behind the rioting.”

Beatrice Fowowe added that she believed that young people suffered from unfairly negative coverage in the media. “I feel that young people are portrayed in quite a negative way. When young people do positive things you don't seem to hear about them in the media. It is only negative things,” she said.

Speaking after the conference, which took place this morning, Elaine Hindal, of the Children’s Society, said the organisation could see “no evidence” to suggest a repeat of the disorder on the streets of London and other major cities last August was imminent.

But she said there was concern over the impact of cuts on projects designed to help boost self-esteem and resilience among young people.

“We are concerned that in the current climate we are seeing some examples of where services are being cut back, they are preventative services, particularly for adolescents, that will help them develop self-esteem and resilience and help support them in positive community activities,” she said.

Asked about whether the riots could be repeated, she said: “We do not see that at the moment. I do not think we have got any evidence to suggest that would be the case but I think we were all taken by surprise by what happened last year.

“I think we always have to be alert to that possibility but there is no evidence that we have seen to suggest that is the case.”