As I pointed out yesterday, we already know austerity cuts don't improve the economy, nor are they simply "fat" that doesn't affect government functions. Remember the recent blizzard that paralyzed NYC after they cut 700 streets workers? We're seeing extensive proof in London over the past four days (see riot map here):
In September of last year, the British Home Secretary Theresa May refused to accept claims by the British police that austerity cuts would affect their ability to contain civil unrest (h/t George Monbiot).
A look at an article from the Guardian reveals May's belief that British people simply did not riot:
The British public don't simply resort to violent unrest in the face of challenging economic circumstances. We must have a rational and reasonable debate about policing. Your association has a long and proud history of constructive and sensible contributions to policing policy-making – long may it continue.
May was speaking after the announcement of deep austerity cuts, that police officials predicted would lead to 40,000 police staff job cuts. May refused to accept this and told the police superintendents' annual conference:
From London Indymedia:
Since the coalition came to power just over a year ago, the country has seen multiple student protests, occupations of dozens of universities, several strikes, a half-a-million-strong trade union march and now unrest on the streets of the capital (preceded by clashes with Bristol police in Stokes Croft earlier in the year). Each of these events was sparked by a different cause, yet all take place against a backdrop of brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures. The government knows very well that it is taking a gamble, and that its policies run the risk of sparking mass unrest on a scale we haven’t seen since the early 1980s. With people taking to the streets of Tottenham, Edmonton, Brixton and elsewhere over the past few nights, we could be about to see the government enter a sustained and serious losing streak.
The policies of the past year may have clarified the division between the entitled and the dispossessed in extreme terms, but the context for social unrest cuts much deeper. The fatal shooting of Mark Duggan last Thursday, where it appears, contrary to initial accounts, that only police bullets were fired, is another tragic event in a longer history of the Metropolitan police’s treatment of ordinary Londoners, especially those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and the singling out of specific areas and individuals for monitoring, stop and search and daily harassment.
One London blogger notes:
In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:
"Yes," said the young man. "You wouldn't be talking to me now if we didn't riot, would you?"
"Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you."
Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere.’’