Readers of a certain blog on a certain newspaper site might have gotten the false impression that I was against the post-riot clean-up operations in London. On the contrary, I promoted plans for Tottenham on Twitter, started early collecting abandoned shopping trollies on Wednesday morning en route and then, alas, found that it wasn’t possible due to the police cordon still being in place on Tottenham High Road. By Thursday, the area had pretty much already been cleaned up by the Council.
The clean-up operations were, in my view, a great example of what people can do when they self-organise to achieve a positive and constructive goal. However, by Thursday, stories were starting to circulate about a more negative aspect to some of the clean-up operations. Some people I know were calling them elitist and exclusive, arguing that some of the rhetoric surrounding them was divisive rather than constructive.
I thought this was an unfair generalisation, the young people I met on Tottenham High Road who had wanted to join in and help out were just that, there was no negativity involved. The same spirit that inspired the huge donations to the families made homeless in the riots was obvious – a willingness to bring the community together and help those who need help. This is something of which London needs a lot more.
My intervention in a thread on Facebook was in this spirit, trying to end the generalisations and argue that the clean-up operations had drawn in a wide range of people, including anarchists like me. When I used the word scum, I was referring directly to the allegations of reactionary and classist elements hijacking the actions. I was not, in any way, referring to the people of Clapham Junction in particular and definitely was not referring to the “broom army” of middle-class volunteers who cleaned up Clapham Junction. As I said on Facebook, “… it’s just important to recognise that they’re not all reactionary scum.”
A certain journalist rang me on Thursday evening and asked me about this. I was taken aback that anyone could have assumed that I was referring to all the people involved in the clean-up in Clapham Junction as scum when I said the exact opposite. I spoke to this same journalist for over three minutes and explained exactly what I meant.
Then, on Friday night/Saturday morning I got a google notification that my name had been mentioned on the web. I was appalled at what I saw – first and foremost a big picture of me that belongs to me used without permission (that’s been replaced). Then four paragraphs attacking me for doing the very thing I’d explained I wasn’t doing, quoting part of the Facebook conversation (not that part about me trying to take part in the Tottenham clean-up) which, in no way, backs up the assertion that I “described the ‘broom army’ of middle-class volunteers who cleaned up Clapham Junction as ‘scum’.” In fact, the point of my comment and what it says is that I’m challenging just that form of generalisation. It was as if I’d never spoken to him.
I’m not going to get into a personal slagging match with this individual, he seems to like that. But anyone who regularly reads his blog will know what he’s like and what his views are. I think it’s safe to say that we don’t agree on many things. However, I am very annoyed at the fact that an assertion has been made about my views that is not correct or accurate and the journalist knows this, because I told him directly on the phone that this was the case.
There has been enough division and loose talk in relation to the whole situation of the riots, looting and aftermath. The only way to stop this kind of thing happening again is to shut our mouths and open our ears. I did a lot of that on Saturday, when I joined the North London Unity March. I sincerely hope we see more of this kind of unity in the future.