Monday, July 12, 2010

Rioting as an absence of democracy

In the last two days there have been two community riots provoked by outrage at reactionary movements.

Yesterday in Belfast three police officers were shot and around two hundred people took part in throwing missiles and petrol bombs at the police. A total of twenty seven police officers were injured during the disturbances, although the press seems to think that none of these injuries is life threatening.

Facing water cannon and baton rounds residents were opposing the loyalist twelfth of July parades that commemorate the killing of Catholics by the forces of William of Orange and the 'traditional' bonfires held on the night of the eleventh.

Over the years these marches have resulted in civil disturbances, violence and an escalation of community tensions. It's understandable that many residents see these celebrations as a deliberate provocation and are consistently frustrated that they seem to have no say about whether they are allowed to take place in their neighbourhoods.

It's no surprise that when people feel they have no democratic option available to them some resort to undemocratic and violent actions. Last night's events really should be a sign that the state's attitudes towards the Orange marches has to change for facilitating their celebrations to regarding them as inciting violence.

However on Friday, in Oakland, California, the rioting was in response to far clearer state complicity in racist violence. Police officer Johannes Mehserle found himself acquitted of murder after he shot an unarmed black man dead.

The court accepted that Oscar Grant was unarmed, and lying face down at the feet of Officer Johannes Mehserle while surrounded by a ring of police officers when Mehserle took out his service revolver and fired a fatal round into his back. The court accepted that because they had no choice, it was all filmed by a by-stander, and yet it still found that the officer had not committed murder, nor had he intended to kill Oscar Grant.

I mean who would expect a man to die after being cold-bloodedly shot in the back at point blank range? And just because grant was unarmed and prone there's no reason to think that this white officer was safe from this extremely black man at his feet. I'm surprised they haven't given Mehserle a medal frankly.

A demonstration of over a thousand people marched after the verdict of non-guilty was announced bearing signs saying "Oakland says guilty". The demo turned into a riot with shops smashed and police lines attacked.

You can watch video here that shows locals speaking for themselves about what they feel about the verdict. The video goes on to show the police response to the peaceful protest although it cuts short before the riot begins.

I'm tempted to say I don't welcome the riots, but frankly I think it's far more important to say that I far from welcome the institution bigotry that allows the Orangemen to dominate Catholic areas with their hate, or the courts that allow police officers to shoot unarmed men in the back just because they're poor and black.


Derek Wall said...

Liam has produced an excellent article on 'Orangefest' here

Reuben said...

Not sure that I agree with you on this one.
Your post that communities should have the "democratic option" to prevent a particular march taking place in their neighbourhood.

Jim Jepps said...

Inciting racial hatred isn't on but the state has always given them institutional support.

It's either riots or moving them to an area where they are not a deliberate provocation. Why should people have to put up with scum marching through their area?

There's nothing democratic about saying they have a right to deliberately provoke particular communities.