Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sow the wind

Three Asian men were killed last night as they tried to defend their business from rioters in Birmingham. According to reports, the deceased were two brothers and a friend had just emerged from a mosque, and were among large numbers of local people determined not to allow the fluid series of grab-and-run attacks in the city centre to spread to their area. A car is said to have mounted the pavement and mowed the three down.

The Asians, of course, not the only ones who are fed up with police inactivity. On the streets of Enfield, a group of 70 men patrolled their streets late into last night. They were one of several groups in the area determined to take a stand against rioting and to help the over-stretched police force.

One of those involved in the patrol, Nick Davidson, said a lack of action from police prompted their decision: "We've had enough of the police just standing there... while people are looting and ruining the whole area. Everybody here pays tax and we've all had enough of it. We're sickened by the police doing absolutely nothing. "They're not policing our streets, we have to police them", he says.

However, the Birmingham incident is the first report of confrontation with the British Asian community or inter-communal violence. This would take the disturbances onto a new level, says The Guardian ... a classic, when it comes to understatement.

Sow the wind, brothers – reap the whirlwind. When you get a breakdown in the basic apparatus of the state, the consequences are never pretty. Some are suggesting that we are on the verge of a new English Civil War. Even a few days ago, I was of the view that we were in a pre-revolutionary situation, but did remark that, when the turning point is reached, "events occur at a terrifying speed".

It is too early to tell whether this is the whirlwind. My guess is that the weekend will be the decisive moment - tired plods, overstretched and bad-tempered. There is plenty of inflammable material around. A few new sparks and we would be living in a terrifyingly new country by Monday.