London Riots 2011

Reasons, Role of the Social Media, Consequences

Seminar Paper, 2012

19 Pages, Grade: 13



1. Introduction

2. The beginning of the riots

3. Location

4.1 Social reasons
4.2 Other reasons

5. Role of the social media
5.1 Facebook
5.2 Twitter
5.3 Blackberry Messenger (BBM)
5.4 Reactions of the state

6.1 Political consequences
6.2 Economic consequences

7. May the riots repeat?


Abbildungs- und Tabellenverzeichnis

1. Introduction

The London riots in 2011 hit England very hard. They came up at a time when only a few people, like social workers or some politicians, were suspecting the chance of trouble among the population.

The year 2011 has changed the world and its history completely with the uprisings in Arabia, called “The Arabian Spring”. One year before nobody would have thought that regimes like in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya will be toppled out of power within only a few months. Starting in Tunisia and spreading over to Egypt, caused by the suicide of a man, revolutions broke out.

Many opinion writers compared the uprisings in the Arabian world with the ones in London and all over England in 2011. They compared it, because the riots came up so spontaneously, on the one hand in Tunisia with the suicide of a young man and on the other hand in London with the shooting of a young man by the police[1]. The exact reasons will be explained below.

Many saw the riots as a wake-up call of a lost generation, of those who are rejected from mainstream British society. This rejection formed a powder keg over several years that exploded when the riots took place.

More than in the Arabian Spring the London riots became a part of a long line of expressions of social unhappiness in the Western European societies, like in France. All those countries have introduced welfare systems to care for their populations. But despite centuries of effort they have not been able to solve the problems. Like in London there was action in Paris, the capital of France, too. Thousands were protesting against social cuts and a perceived lack of future. Like in London cars were burning, stores were smashed and violence ruled on the streets[2].

This examples show that there are differences between the riots. On the one hand there have been revolutions against repression and the willing of millions to give their lives if necessary for freedom[3]. On the other hand protests and actions caused by social unhappiness. But they had one thing in common: The leading role of the social media to keep the uprisings running.

Facebook, Twitter, the Black Berry Messenger Service and other social media hand over the chance to the protesters to organize and plan the coming demonstrations or like in London: new lootings[4].

To show whether the London riots have been only lootings or maybe the uprisings of lost generation is the issue of this seminar thesis and how it could come so far.

That is why I have chosen this topic. To show what the riots really have been and whether they could happen again.

2. The beginning of the riots

The riots started in the night of the 7th August 2011[5] to run for five days[6]. After peaceful protests against the killing of Michael Duggan, a 29-year old man, by the police on August, 4th, and to get answers for his death[7], the protests became riots. They started in the area of Tottenham, a district of London and spread over the country within days.

The police are accused of shooting Michael Duggan in cold blood. It was reported that he was driving in a minicab however at the time it was uncertain whether shots were first fired from the minicab or from the police. After the incident a bullet was found in the police wagon. The only certain fact is that Duggan was fatally shot by the police[8].

3. Location

A huge number of cities and districts were threatened by the riots and the scenes remained the same. In the following days Hackney, Brixton, Chingford, Ealing, Oxford Circus, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester saw the riots mushrooming. But in fact, all the country was affected by the violence, as the vicious circle of social unhappiness exploded. Accordingly, mostly the poor areas of London were threatened by the riots[9].

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Picture 1: Locations of the riots (Quelle: )

4.1 Social reasons

The outbreak of the uprisings was in Tottenham, a multicultural district of London. In this area more than 100 distinct ethnic groups live side by side and more than 150 languages are spoken[10]. Even in 1985 riots came up there when an old woman died after police raid. At this time social benefits were cut. To understand today’s dissatisfaction a closer look at the social structures is necessary.

Tottenham is one of the poorest districts of London. Poverty, unemployment and resignation dominate the daily life. More than 8.8 % of the people there are searching for work. This rate is twice as high as the national average[11]. For a lot of Europeans this unemployment rate does not sound high, but the minimum wage in Great Britain is only about £ 6. For workers under 21 it is about £ 5[12]. In London where the rents for flats has risen for years it is hard to manage daily expenses with only £ 800 a month. Because of this many depend on social benefits. For example there are 280 000 people receiving housing allowance in London.

Picture 2: Causes of the riots

illustration not visible in this excerpt


After the elections in 2010, a new government was elected, consisting of the Conservatives and the Liberals. They passed several laws cutting public expenditures. Under current schemes the government plans to save more than 91 billion Euros by 2015. This is only possible by cutting social benefits like the child benefit, the housing allowance and tax abatement for families and retired people[13]. For example, the child benefits will remain steady from 2011 to 2014, with only a weekly payment of a minimum of £ 20.30[14]. Here the payments have not been cut but frozen. Many are afraid to be hit by those savings. In a district depending on social benefits violence may be the natural product of austerity.

Even the community council of Tottenham cut the expenditures. The grant for young people was reduced in 2010. A vicious circle started to take roots. There was only a spark needed to let the powder keg explode. The killing of Michael Duggan provided that spark.

First there were only some peaceful protesters that demanded on explanations about his death which the police could not offer. While the uprisings spread they became more intense: An expression for the lost, for those who feel they cannot participate in the British society anymore.

In Tottenham generally low wages are paid, and there is no hope for the young generation. They feel excluded from the advantages of their country. According to austerity policy of the Cameron Administration they feel they suffer the most under it. The expenditures for schools have been cut, like the social benefits, or taken away and eligibility criteria have tightened. This fact means that this generation has not got a future, because education paves the way into it[15].

4.2 Other reasons

Not everyone is satisfied with a social explanation of the riots. There are others that suspect a more easy reason: the desire for lootings and the dependency state.

Many opinion writers have compared the uprisings in London with the ones in the Arabian Spring in the same year. Unlike the Arabic movement they did not protest in front of the headquarters of the Liberals and the Tory Party. They did not organize protests against the social benefit cuttings or the decline of public education. The rioters in London smashed small firms selling electronic devices or clothing shops. It should be noted that to organize such protests with 500 Euro-Blackberry devices means having a financial background to be able to afford those devices and the contracts for them, in stark contrast to the picture of impoverished youth unable to afford to live.

















Excerpt out of 19 pages


London Riots 2011
Reasons, Role of the Social Media, Consequences
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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London, 2011, Tottenham, Riots, uprising, Ungerechtigkeit, Aufstand
Quote paper
Robert Trabandt (Author), 2012, London Riots 2011, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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