Tuesday, August 9, 2011

UK lights up -- is Canada next?

While no act of law enforcement, and no austerity measure, can justify the kind of rioting that has happened in the UK the last few days, one cannot help but appreciate the need to vent.   These are not easy times and budget cutbacks can only fuel that frustration.   It also doesn't help when an alleged gang member (and these are only allegations right now) who is also the father of four is the target of racial profiling and ends up dead in a shootout.

There is a difference, though, between peaceful assembly and "going postal".   When you damage people's places of business and even disrupt public transit (one of the trams in London's south side has gone offline due to vandalism to the power lines), you affect the lives of those who may initially empathize with the cause but then turn against it because of the violence it entails.

One sees that the British PM has cut short his vacation and recalled Parliament for an emergency session to deal with the riots, while 15,000 extra cops have been called back from their vacations to patrol the streets of London.    One also cannot help but think of the Amadou Diallo fiasco, which we now know was a case of mistaken identity -- and, if it happens to be the case here, will prove to be a huge black eye for both David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson, the latter of whom was actually born in NYC).

What started as a peaceful protest in London's Tottenham section has spread to 32 of the 33 boroughs with "The City" (i.e. the financial district) due in line as well as several other cities.   When "the cure" is worse than the disease, none of us are better of.   I support the "broken windows" concept of fighting crime, but not at the expense of civil rights.   At the same time, there can never be a just cause for wanton violence and those responsible for such acts should and must be held accountable.

Is Canada next?   I certainly hope not.   But in the age of instant communication, images like what we're seeing across the pond will certainly rub off the minds of some in these of  "The Colonies."    Policies that divide rather than unite are bound to make people angry.   And it will take only a spark to get the fire going.   It may happen sooner than we think or hope.

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