View from the community - 'Could another riot happen?'
Zaffar Van Kalwala, former Stonebridge ward councillor
- Credit: PA Images
It was 10 years ago in August 2011 that Mark Duggan was shot by armed police
while travelling in a mini-cab in Tottenham.
Protests against his killing led to rioting across London. Many young people used the old Black Berry messenger service to communicate and plan some of the looting of local shops and businesses.
Mark Duggan’s death was just the spark. The fuel was communities living in places like Brent that were suffering from poverty and cuts to local services.
There was high unemployment, youth clubs were closing due to cuts and the government abolished the Educational Maintenance Allowance.
Police ‘Stop and Search’ was also causing anger, particularly in places such as my former ward, Stonebridge that has high numbers of Black and Ethnic Minority residents.
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Fast forward to 2021 – In Brent you can now buy a Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino and browse designer shops but there is still a lack of jobs, housing and security.
Over the last decade, Brent has changed significantly. But many residents are unsure if the new change is about helping those that grew-up in the borough or more about attracting those on higher incomes to buy the new shiny apartments being built in Brent.
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Brent residents must wait around 18 years if they want a three-bedroom council house. And despite all the investment, the number of job opportunities in the borough has fallen by 1.2 per cent when compared to 2017. Brent also had the highest number of murders in London last year.
Many still feel excluded from the regeneration in the borough. So could another riot happen? Add Covid into the mix with poverty and inequality and the government adviser, Professor Clifford Stott believes “we could have disorder equivalent to August 2011”.
Brent needs to attract more corporate companies to create employment and provide work placements. The council should also consider working with schools to encourage free activities on their premises to help children and young people.
It wasn’t just the police killing Mark Duggan that caused the riots, it was the appalling inequality felt by many in places like Brent. An inequality that still exists today.