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Clarence Road, Hackney: After The Riots and Looting, What Happens Next?

Clarence Road, Hackney is filled with an unusual and eerie silence and the police presence feels like we are under Marshal Law. Every corner you turn, there are two or three at hand to welcome you. It feels safe yet intimidating because in an ironic way, we are under surveillance. Move from Clarence Road to Narrow Way, Mare Street’s, one of the first stops to feel the brunt of the rioters, the silence has more of an effect. About two food stores, one hair shop and McDonald’s are bold enough to open. Sadly, your order must be take-away. A place you could once walk into and sit for hours, you are told at the door to get your food and get out in a polite manner. Understandably, this is a cautionary move and who can blame them? Marks and Spencer has its doors smashed and as such, it is closed.

As most of the shops on Clarence Road remain closed, including the corner shop which has had its images beamed around the globe as the looters went in for their spoil. Its shutters which are not fully up like you would expect serve as a glaring reminder of all that went wrong here. Battered and bent in, it looks like a redesign by unqualified locksmiths. The evidence of burnt cars is still visible as residence chatter away in little groups about the man-made Armageddon unleashed on them by the rioters, who had scores to settle. It was mayhem of epic proportion as car after car was destroyed and torched. The rioters/looters had become fearless as some of them chanted we hate the system. At other times, they taunted the police, who looked on somewhat helpless. Whenever they surged forward to push the rioters back, you would hear some quarters say ‘don’t run, they can’t do anything.’ That’s how fearless they had become and it seemed they were playing a game of cat and mouse with the police – you push me back but I will come forward was the interpretation of their actions.

Covered in their hoodies and scarves and prepared to destroy, the energetic environment was set aflame when the first car was set alight. Their destruction was not selective; if the car was there, it was free for all and one after the other, they moved between cars and a van, even setting on the business of a local electrician. If this was a scene out of a movie, one would gladly sit back and watch but it was happening on a residential road with families and businesses owned by the local people.

It remains to be established if majority of the rioters were from the area, after all, Pembury Estate, which over the years has earned notoriety for crime is still standing and was at the heart of the disturbance as the police pushed the youths back. It was the safe heaven the rioters ran into, that is if you can still call them that because their rebellion is now without a cause after the looting started. Their actions are being described as that of criminals best explained by Theresa May, home secretary, when she said ‘what we have seen is thuggery and criminality.’ Her views have been echoed by David Cameron, who cut his holiday short in order to lead the nation back to a peaceful existence. It must be said that he is talking tough when he and his thieving government are part of the problem. It is all well and good to talk tough but do us all a favour and face some truths and by all means, don’t gloss over the underlying issues like they don’t exist. No one denies the looting was wrong but when you are done with the tough talk, let’s have a dialogue or this will happen again…

Move up to Ridley Road Market, Dalston and you are faced with ghost town. A market renowned for its multicultural make-up and rhythm was disturbingly quiet. As some form of normality returns to London, one can only hope Clarence Road, in no time gets its groove back.




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