This is becoming kind of a thing. The British government slashes benefits in a desperate attempt to move toward fiscal solvency. Then British citizens angrily take to the streets because they think that “stuff costs money” is a capitalist fiction invented to disturb their ataraxic post-national torpor. Riots break out and the UK’s cradle-to-grave welfare recipients try to wreck London, defacing and destroying landmarks and symbols of British life and democracy.
The last riot was over an increase in student tuition. Protesters wrecked Parliament Square, attacked the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and dropped a fire extinguisher from a seventh-floor rooftop onto officers standing below. Rather than hold the children responsible for their temper tantrums, bien pensant papers like the Guardian castigated London police for “criminalizing” the poor dears.
Somehow minimizing and excusing violent behavior failed to dissuade protesters from doing the same thing again, this time in response to public service cuts.
The BBC does want you to know, though, that the rioting was limited to “small groups.” The groups were large enough to attack dozens of landmarks, wreck even more shops, make a run at the Olympic clock, lay siege to the Ritz hotel with paint and smokebombs, and occupy a department store with thousands of activists. They were large enough to injure dozens of people and force hundreds of arrests. But let’s call them small, because that sounds better:
Labour leader Ed Miliband addressed crowds in Hyde Park and the main march organised by the Trades Union Congress passed off peacefully. But small groups attacked shops and banks with a stand-off in Piccadilly. There have been 214 arrests and 66 people injured, including 13 police. Ministers say the cuts are necessary to get the public finances in order.
Unions can’t decide whether to avail themselves of the BBC’s assist and distance themselves from the violence, or whether they want to own it. The Daily Mail got one of the UK’s most powerful union bosses boasting about the thuggish behavior, but the quote has since been removed from the write-up. Luckily the original article was saved:
Activists’ websites had shown how they organised a ‘huge explosion of class hatred and anger’, specifically targeting banks and shops on Oxford Street. Trade union leaders, who put on 600 coaches and nine trains to ferry protesters to the capital, insisted they only wanted a ‘safe, well-stewarded and family-friendly event’. But Len McCluskey, leader of the country’s biggest union, ramped up the rhetoric, saying anger towards cuts in public spending ‘needs to find a release’.
Translation: “That’s a nice city you’ve got there, it’d be a shame if anything happened to it.” And people say that international labor solidarity is dead.