Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Lee Jasper on ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

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Violence in London continues

Posted August 09, 2011 22:58:00
The bedlam in London has continued into its third night with no sign of an end. The violence has spread beyond the city and police are stretched trying to contain the crisis.
(Leigh Sales)

LEIGH SALES: A new day in England has brought fresh fears of more violence.
The nation is reeling from the worst unrest in three decades.
It's also been a dramatic day on the Australian stock market and shortly we'll be speaking to some retirees about their fears for their nest eggs.
But first let's go straight to those extraordinary London scenes. Rioters are now rampaging far beyond the capital.
The violence has shut down entire suburbs and terrified residents are fleeing their homes.
In a desperate move, Scotland Yard has introduced special powers in some areas to try to contain the trouble.
But is the police presence on the ground sufficient?
Shortly I'll be crossing to London, but first have a look at some of the dramatic pictures out of the UK in the past 24 hours.
(vision of the London riots)
VOICE: Put that down! Put that down!
VOICE 2: Police lines, they had the lines had actually charged towards her and started hitting her with a baton. Subsequently it turned out she was only 16 and this absolutely made everyone go up in an uproar.
VOICE 3: Pity the policeman don't carry guns here.
VOICE 4: I just think the emergency services' response was awful.
VOICE 5: The police are fighting us too much. They're telling us no, no and then they killed someone.
VOICE 6: I don't know why people do this.
LEIGH SALES: Unbelievable, isn't it? Joining me now from London is Lee Jasper, he was a policing qualities adviser to the former London mayor Ken Livingston.
We know the protests started in Tottenham on the weekend because of a specific incident where police shot a man but what's driving the spread of this violence well beyond that area?
LEE JASPER, FORMER POLICING ADVISOR: I think there are a number of reasons for its spread. I think we've seen huge levels of austerity cuts in many inner city areas that's leading to a great deal of anxiety, concern, young people themselves now are not able to afford to take higher education, even at a basic level, much less get into a higher educational degree. That unemployment continues, unemployment continues to rise and there is a sense of anxiety but also a sense of moral crisis in the country. I think because of the MPs scandal, the corporate tax dodging issue of huge multinational companies, the News International corruption cases with the metropolitan police and phone hacking, there is a kind of failure really of people in power to uphold the kind of moral standards that we all aspire to. And as such, this has had an effect around the country particularly in some very poor and deprived communities. I saw a youth with a 52-inch screen walking, having robbed it from a local store in London and when I asked him what he's doing he said to me that this is his banker's bonus, it's his MPs expenses. We have a kind of malaise, a crisis of morality in the country. Things are very tough in very many areas and I think there is a sort of criminal opportunism that is riding on the back of a legitimate protest of what was a very serious incident of gunning a man down on London streets. And as a consequence of that lots of people have sought to criminally exploit what is a legitimate issue.
LEIGH SALES: Sorry to interrupt you, but presumably there would be a lot of Londoners who feel disenfranchised or unemployed affected by the austerity measures who are upset with the issues you raise who aren't out on the streets of London looting, is this merely an excuse for people to indulge in criminal behaviour?
LEE JASPER: I don't think so because I think as reprehensible as the attacks on people and property are and Lord knows that that is true, it is incredible that you could think about explaining a situation without making reference to the fact that we've got deeply alienated sections of our inner cities. Young people who don't think they've got any stake in society and I think any society wants to minimise the number of people that feel like that and unfortunately over the last few years we've seen that number grow. People are not able to get houses, people are not able to get into higher and further education. And with the abandonment of hope and opportunity, the policies of cynicism and desperation fill the vacuum. I think what you're seeing is a take up by people in very many inner cities who are deeply alienated, deeply angry, deeply frustrated and are taking out their misplaced anger in a splurge of criminal irresponsibility.
LEIGH SALES: If I could read you a comment which was left on the London Telegraph's website in response to an article that's making similar points to those that you're making and the comment is:"What a load of twaddle. Come from a broken home and was raised on council estates. I didn't look at people who had more than me and think jealous thoughts. Through sheer hard work and determination I retired at 40 a very wealthy man. Opportunities in life stop and start with the person in the mirror." What do you say to that?
LEE JASPER: He's not 21 and living the young black person on a housing estate in the middle of Peckham or Brixton or Hamsworth or a young white person in Wandsworth, Liverpool, Newcastle whose whole family for a generation has been left unemployed. One can't simply discount these things. Everybody wants a return to order and normality but if we think that simply locking people up is going to solve the problem in the wake of these disturbances then we're set to see a repeat of those disturbances at some point in the future. One can deal with the symptom which is the explosion of criminality but one has to also focus on the cause and that is the lack of engagement, democratic engagement, deep alienation that is faced by many young people in our inner cities and in fact not even young people. We've got 40 or 50-year-olds now being made unemployed in the country who are completely angry and alienated that their futures and their pensions are degraded and so on. Let me say this, this is not about young people or indeed young black people. I've been on the streets of London. I've seen middle-aged dentist technicians out there on the streets of London. I've seen people who are in a professional capacity and I think when you find the arrests are made you will find although the poor and deprived areas are represented they're by no means exclusively the ones being engaged in these activities.
LEIGH SALES: Where are the protestors coming from and what's the level of coordination of what's going on?
LEE JASPER: We're living in a multimedia world and all of the tools for coordination are already out there. So people are using social networking sites which everybody now is fairly accustomed to and are able to organise all sorts of activities using this new network and social media and that is providing a communications platform for people to initiate coordinated activity right across the country.
LEIGH SALES: Lee Jasper, thank you very much for making time to speak to us today.
LEE JASPER: Thank you.