Last night was probably one of the most shocking nights of my life. At five o’clock when there were a few outbreaks in Hackney, it was very easy to feel angry; angry that there were clearly a group of kids determined to cause trouble. By eight o’clock as we watched cars set on fire in Hackney, homes set on fire in Croydon and people’s cars set on fire in Lewisham, that anger swelled.
In fact for a good few hours after that there was nothing but anger. Why were only 1,000-3,000 of a 32,000 strong police on the street? Why weren’t the police doing anything? Why were the police so impotent? Why do the parents not know where these children are? Why haven’t we sent the army in? All these questions were angered and shouted at the TV by many who I followed on Twitter.
Yet as more pockets of footage emerged throughout the evening that changed. When you heard about the woman who woke up in the middle of the night to a group of thugs breaking into her home, something changed. When I got a phone call from my friend who walked down to Ealing and he described, not only something that seemed warlike, but the true extent of a lawless society, something changed. As you saw the spread of the violence, indiscriminately across our nation’s capital, it all changed.
By midnight I was speechless. When you heard the shopkeepers talk of being beaten, or their shops and livelihoods and often their homes, then set on fire, you weren’t shocked any more. It really was a devastatingly sad night for London.
The cost of the cleanup will be astronomical, but it is nothing compared to the time it will take to recover for the thousands who were left horrified and scared last night.
Yet we cannot let the bastards get us down.
I have only lived in London for five years, but I love this city as much as anyone who has lived here for ten times that. This is a city of tolerance and respect. A city that survived the Blitz and terrorist attacks. We do not let our spirits be dampened. Londoners will get through this, no matter how dark a night, last night was.