London 2012: A Jubilant Week, An Awkward Anniversary

One year since the riots, the government drags its heels on any real social response, while young people repair their communities and their image.

On the one year anniversary of the London riots, Reeves furniture shop in South London—which was torched during the riots—is plastered with positive messages of London youth.

By pretty much any measure, it’s been quite an extraordinary summer for the United Kingdom: celebrating 60 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, a Briton reaching the Wimbledon men’s final, another winning the Tour de France, and not to mention the anticipation and—finally—the enjoyment of a spectacular Olympic Games.

This week, with Team GB ranking impressively high among medaling nations, the mood on the streets of London is jubilant. What a difference a year makes.

Last August, when localized violence broke out in a north London neighborhood over the police shooting of local taxi driver Mark Duggan, few could have predicted what would follow all across the capital and in other major UK cities. Three nights of unfettered violence, torching, and looting shook the nation—vicious battles unfolded between disastrously unprepared police and seemingly fearless youths as shocked politicians scrambled to address an unprecedented situation.

For politicians it's somewhat awkward, inconvenient even, that the one year anniversary of the London riots had to fall during the capital’s shining moment. Especially because the promises from Prime Minister David Cameron and British MPs to confront the economic disparity and opportunity gap that contributed to the riots subsided in about October, right around the time the news cycle moved on.

Lucky for them, Olympic cheer is doing more than enough to stir British patriotism and divert media coverage from the one year milestone. Whether or not adequate attention is paid to the anniversary, the root causes of the riots have been largely unaddressed. Since last August, Cameron has routinely spoken in favor of cutting down on state sponsored benefits and even proposed scrapping housing benefits for UK citizens under 25.

A recent survey of 2,000 Britons found that 62 percent feel that young people themselves were to blame for the unrest last summer, not the government or social media. So who are these young people? The exhaustive "Reading the Riots" study—undertaken by the Guardian newspaper and London School of Economics—found that more than 80% of last August’s violence took place within a five minute walk of subsidized housing blocks, known as council estates in the UK. This suggests, at least to some degree, that poverty and lack of resources—both of which are widespread for youth growing up on council estates—were a contributing factor to the riots.

In contrast to the lackluster response from government, some individuals and organizations within the UK have stepped up both to find solutions and to reverse the negative image of youth that has lingered since the riots.

A film written and directed by platinum selling UK rapper Plan B, who grew up in an east London housing estate, was hailed by critics as a frank depiction of the dismal environment that a lot of youth grow up in. While he didn’t want to excuse their behavior, Plan B said he intended to provide insight into a largely unseen world.

"People hopefully will get some understanding by watching it and see that there is a reason behind every despicable crime that happens," the filmmaker told the Guardian. "It’s not just some mindless thug taking their anger out on someone. It usually stems from some really deep-seated, f***ed-up places."

A campaign by UK charity vInspired, called Reverse Riots, has also taken action to combat the negative stereotypes. To mark this week’s anniversary, the 145 year old Reeves furniture shop in South London—which became an iconic image of the riots when one of its buildings was engulfed in flames after being torched—is covered with 4,000 images of youth broadcasting positive messages about their communities and themselves.

Proprietor Trevor Reeves said that despite the destruction, the aftermath of the riots did have hopeful reverberations.

"The positive legacy of the riots was the coming together of people of all ages and from all walks of life to help mend the capital," Reeves said. "We were overwhelmed by the support that was offered to our family and many others affected in the days and weeks that followed."

Despite this positivity, there are many—including some in law enforcement—who feel certain that similar unrest is likely to occur again. This week, while the nation takes pride in the wonderful job it’s done hosting the world for London 2012, it’s worth asking if the government is willing to go to the same lengths for its own people.


Some beauty pageants, like the Miss America competition, have done away with the swimsuit portions of the competitions, thus dipping their toes in the 21st century. Other aspects of beauty pageants remain stuck in the 1950s, and we're not even talking about the whole "judging women mostly on their looks" thing. One beauty pageant winner was disqualified for being a mom, as if you can't be beautiful after you've had a kid. Now she's trying to get the Miss World competition to update their rules.

Veronika Didusenko won the Miss Ukraine pageant in 2018. After four days, she was disqualified because pageant officials found out she was a mom to 5-year-old son Alex, and had been married. Didusenko said she had been aware of Miss World's rule barring mother from competing, but was encouraged to compete anyways by pageant organizers.

Keep Reading Show less

One mystery in our universe is a step closer to being solved. NASA's Parker Solar Probe launched last year to help scientists understand the sun. Now, it has returned its first findings. Four papers were published in the journal Nature detailing the findings of Parker's first two flybys. It's one small step for a solar probe, one giant leap for mankind.

It is astounding that we've advanced to the point where we've managed to build a probe capable of flying within 15 million miles from the surface of the sun, but here we are. Parker can withstand temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit and travels at 430,000 miles per hour. It's the fastest human-made vehicle, and no other human-made object has been so close to the sun.

Keep Reading Show less
via Sportstreambest / Flickr

Since the mid '90s the phrase "God Forgives, Brothers Don't" has been part of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's football team's lexicon.

Over the past few years, the team has taken the field flying a black skull-and-crossbones flag with an acronym for the phrase, "GFBD" on the skull's upper lip. Supporters of the team also use it on social media as #GFBD.

Keep Reading Show less