C21 Manifesto

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Country Standard

Published since 1935 - edited by Mike Walker - for rural and food workers and countryside communities.

Unity!

Unity! is the CP's regular bulletin published for Trade Union Conferences, events and disputes

We dismiss this violence at our peril, writes Morning Star reporter John Millington from London.

It's not often as a journalist that you are apprehensive to go and get a story.
Covering demonstrations, strikes and press conferences are the bread and butter of being a labour movement correspondent.
But I must confess to a high level of apprehension as I zip up my leather jacket and pack my Dictaphone into my pocket before heading just 10 minutes up the road to the latest riot to sweep the country.
Mare Street, near Hackney Central, saw 50 or so youths gather around 4.30pm and attack shops including JD Sports.
Arriving at the scene at 6pm to meet NUJ colleagues, youths had dispersed and retreated to the Pembury estate in Clarence Road - a deprived area of Hackney with a hard reputation.
Walking through a deserted Mare Street it was eerie seeing police blocking off side streets.
We were in what the force describes a "sterile zone."
This is an accurate word.
It feels as though nothing could penetrate it.
A single wind gusted through the street rattling the shutters, conjuring up images of the "quiet" moment before something horrific happens in the horror movie.
Right on queue we were at the foot of Clarence Road leading into the Pembury estate with heavily armed riot police at one end and fearless youths at the other.
For three hours I was running up and down the street attempting to get the facts on the ground, while avoiding missiles from the youths and the batons of the police.
When the police advanced, photographers and reporters were able to get within 20 yards of the youths to see their faces, to see the raw anger and the false confidence they displayed.
It crossed my mind while ducking for cover that this must be the only time in recent years where those youths feel like they are winning.
Morning Star readers need no reminding about the objective facts and context that these "riots" are taking place in.
Youth employment is at an all-time high since the second world war, increasing gaps between rich and poor and Britain is subject to the most severe austerity package in modern times.
So young people from working-class or unemployed families have been losing - losing for a long time.
How one reacts to this is varied.
No-one is the same.
That's why not everyone who is poor and young has been engaging in violent acts.
When the police attempted to take the junction 100 yards into Clarence Road, linking with Clarence Place, they were forced to retreat when the youths realised that the narrowness of the roads made it impossible for the police to send enough numbers to secure the area.
This was the tensest part for journalists in the middle.
As police retreated from two streets I found myself about to be sandwiched unable to move.
My colleagues and I were now in range of missiles including petrol bombs, which were easily available with fire pluming from the burning cars.
Picking my moment, I dashed across the crossroads, taking shelter behind a phone booth, making frantic Dictaphone recordings of what I was seeing.
Although looters did break into a newsagents and ransack it, most of confrontation was focused on the police.
It was clear to see that the youths were mainly masked but were both men and women and of varied racial backgrounds, pretty much reflecting the demographics of Hackney.
This was a telling sign but seems to have been lost on some of my colleagues on the TV networks.
Speaking to a BBC correspondent on site, she agreed with my observations but then proceeded to tell the same mantra in her report that it was all "masked men" in a poor borough of London - you can read "black" sublimely here.
Unable to get to the youths to speak to them, I could only observe them from a short distance.
They were young, confident and completely unintimidated by masked and heavily armed officers running towards them.
Having said that, speaking to officers on site was interesting to say the least both in their dejected body language and their comments to me.
Anonymously officers breathed reams of frustration on top of specific comments about the situation up the road and their own conditions of work.
One complained to have been on duty for up to 24 hours and was "sick of it" and wanted to go home.
Another was more specific, expressing frustration at the Police Federation being unable to take strike action to stop the 40 per cent cuts to the force.
Most of the media departed the scene at 9pm after police suddenly withdrew, with later footage showing individuals being chased through Hackney into the early hours of the night.
As I went home accompanied by a photo-journalist, adrenaline still running strong, it was obvious that condemnation and the continued use of force alone will fail to quell these riots.
It is not about defending or justifying attacks on working people or small businesses. But it's equally futile talking about more force or bringing the army out onto the streets.
The energy and anger of these young people must be harnessed and the genuine grievances of the majority of working-class people in this country, addressed.
The only force capable of beginning that process of recruitment and education is the labour and trade union movement.
We dismiss these riots at our peril.
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