In the Media

The role of respect in preventing future riots

PUBLISHED December 9, 2011

By a nice coincidence, I left the country on holiday on the day the riots broke out, and returned two nights after they ended. I was a bit disappointed to find that Harrods was still standing. Reading your reports (Blame the police: why the rioters say they took part, 5 December), I recall how, as a posh white Trustafarian speaking fluent South Kensington, in the 1960s I used to get stopped in the street by officious coppers who seemed to enjoy practising their menacing sarcasm on the young.

Sweaty-lipped junior ministers desperately rubbishing your forensic research on Newsnight are mistaken if they imagine that even sixtysomething, educated, upper-middle-class adults don't deep down harbour anti-authoritarian resentments. It is perhaps our most defining British characteristic. A closed culture, overendowed with powers and as-seen-on-TV weaponry, frequently insolent and seemingly answerable to no one, the uncomfortable role of the police is increasingly to batten down the hatches in steerage while the privileged centile, Westminster in their pockets, pull away in the lifeboats. History suggests we should not be too surprised when the rivets pop.
Paul Ingrams
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion

? Archbishop Williams warns of more rioting to come (Riots could happen again, warns Williams, 6 December). How might he do more than warn? What would he do if he were to take to heart Jesus's sense of mission?

He would regularly preach at the Occupy camp at St Paul's. He would raise hell in the House of Lords. He would invest the church's wealth in job creation and apprenticeship schemes for the inner cities. He would house literacy programmes in his churches and insist on his clergy staffing them without condescension or design. He would bring the faithful of every denomination on to the streets to demand a better way. If he did, I would join him.
Malcolm Ross
Littlehempston, Devon

? The key message from the Guardian/LSE report on the summer riots is about the importance of treating people with respect. It is crucial that government ministers, police officers, staff in benefits offices, and others in public positions treat everyone with respect instead of the contempt that is sometimes displayed. A classic example is the appalling language that government ministers have used to describe the rioters.

These are people and families they are talking about: parents, sons and daughters all struggling to make ends meet. If anyone spoke of any of my family members in that kind of language I would be angry. We have a long way to go with all our public services to begin treating the public as citizens and customers rather than criminals and scroungers.
Duncan Forbes
Cwmbran, Monmouthshire

? Rowan Williams wrote: "The idea that cutting youth services is ever a true economy ? should be indefensible". We live on the edge of Ladywood, Birmingham. Our local garage is the one where three young men were killed in the riots. In the last few days we have heard that a local youth centre has had its grant cut. Also, a friend who works at the nearest Connexions office, which is an agency trying to help young unemployed, received her redundancy notice on the very day that the young unemployed total was announced as one million ? evidence on the ground for the "indefensible", and unbelievably irrational.
Bishop Peter Hall

? Anything that helps to prevent future riots must be welcomed, and the Guardian/LSE surely deserve gratitude for their research into rioters' motivation. But what of self-defence? If we are to face motivated rioters (and the research shows the recent rioters to be very motivated indeed), can police or government guarantee protection for us all, in every location, all the time? Do we need a national debate on whether or not it should be considered a human right to be able to defend ourselves when confronted with a criminal danger either during a riot or not?
AR Garner

? I am surprised that we do not have more riots in this country. A pervasive sense of injustice" (lack of money, jobs and opportunities) has been highlighted by the recent riots research as the underlying cause. Society has shamefully neglected the needs of young people. I took part in research in the late 90s for the Social Exclusion Unit on 16- to 19-year-olds which highlighted lack of provision for young people as instrumental in their marginalisation and Neet status. Young people need to feel they have a stake in our society, and that means doing real work in the real world which gives them money to spend, a feeling of achievement and skills for the future. If we cannot provide our young people with a future it is we who are committing a crime.
Daphne Cotton
Twickenham, Middlesex

? You are right to exonerate Twitter from blame for the summer riots. In Sussex, the constabulary used Twitter with great skill to dampen down rumours and kill speculation. A report by Sussex police shows that Twitter played an important role in keeping the county riot-free. Those searching for causes will have to think a little harder.
Paul Richards
Eastbourne, East Sussex

? I agree with Gary Younge (Indifferent elites, economic hardship and police brutality ? all reasons to riot, 5 December) except when he states that the riots happened across Britain ? when they were only in England. Surely this fact should have been looked into by everyone concerned? Or has it been disregarded as not important?
Joyce Morgan
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