Onlookers became advocates and participants in last year’s August riots because social ‘norms’ were frozen during those four days, an academic study has found.
Initial findings from the 40-page report, Reading the riots, carried out jointly by the Guardian and London School of Economics, found many of the rioters did not initially intend to loot.
However, they made the most of the opportunity, when normal social rules had apparently been suspended, to gain ‘free stuff’ for themselves. According to the Guardian, many onlookers who watched peers smash car windows, burn down shops and steal, decided to join in.
Gang hostilities were temporarily suspended to better promote the riots and Blackberry Messenger was integral in communicating new meeting points and locations of rioting.
Of those involved, 59 per cent were unemployed and 75 per cent had previous criminal convictions. Some 73 per cent said they had been stopped and searched by police in the preceding 12 months.
However, the report concluded the riots did not stem from racial tension but from a deep-rooted sense of injustice. Reasons for this included: not having enough money; being annoyed at student tuition fees; not having a job; and feeling mistreated or discriminated against.
The project collected more than 1.3 million words of first-person accounts from rioters and explored more than 2.5 million riot-related tweets from social news feed Twitter.
In all, last year’s riots left five people dead, many families and businesses homeless or ruined, and 4,000 people arrested.
Rev. Dr John Scott, chief executive of the Daylight Christian Prison Trust, said, ‘One thing is clear from this report — three quarters of those involved in the disturbances were not new to the criminal justice system.
‘Many of those who have slipped through the net have continued in the revolving door of criminality. For those who have ended up in prison after the riots, we need to make sure that when they are released they receive the essential post-release support to reduce the likelihood of reoffending.
‘There are too many offenders being released without this support, which means they continue to struggle to turn their life around’.