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Thursday, 11 August 2011

Britain's rioters: young, poor and disillusioned

FILE -Youths throw bricks at police in this Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011 photo during unrest in Enfield, north London. Nearly 1,200 people have been arrested since the riots erupted Saturday, mostly poor youths from a broad section of Britain's many races and ethnicities. Britain is bitterly divided on the reasons behind the riots _ some blame the unrest on opportunistic criminality, while others say the country's economic policies and cuts have deepened inequalities in the most deprived areas.(AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo, File)
LONDON (AP) — Young rioters clogged Britain's courthouses Wednesday, each one painting a bleak picture of a lost generation: a 15-year-old Ukrainian whose mother died, a 17-year-old who followed his cousin into the mayhem, an 11-year-old gangster arrested for stealing a garbage can.

Britain is bitterly divided on the reasons behind the riots — some blame the unrest on opportunistic criminality, others say conflicting economic policies and punishing government spending cuts have deepened inequalities in the country's most deprived areas.

Many of the youths themselves struggle to find any one plausible answer, but a widespread sense of alienation emerges from their tales.

"Nobody is doing nothing for us — not the politicians, not the cops, no one," a 19-year-old who lives near Tottenham, the blighted London neighborhood where the riots started. He only gave his nickname "Freddy," because he took part in the looting and was scared of facing prosecution; he was not among the youths in court.
Britain also has one of the highest violent crime rates in the EU and alarmingly high youth unemployment — roughly 18 percent of youths between 16 and 24 are jobless and nearly half of all young black youths are out of work.

As the government battles colossal government debt with harsh welfare cuts that promise to make the futures of these youths even bleaker, some experts say it's blinkered to believe the riots have only been a random outburst of violence unrelated to the current economic crisis.

"There's a fundamental disconnect with a particular section of young Britain and sections of the political establishment," said Matthew Goodwin, a politics professor at University of Nottingham.

"The argument that this doesn't have anything to do with expenditure cuts or economics doesn't stand up to the evidence. If that's true, then what we have here are hundreds of young, crazed kids simply acting irrationally. I don't think that's the case."



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