Wednesday 26 July 2017

Christina Patterson: Racial tensions fanning the flames as streets burn

Christina Patterson

August, historians will tell you, is a good time to start a war. And, boy, does this feel like a war. This feels, when you switch on the TV, and see footage of burning cars, and burning buildings, and of people jumping out of burning buildings, and of people too scared to walk down their street, and of dark silhouettes in helmets waving shields, and of dark silhouettes in hoodies waving iron bars, like the nearest to war most of us have been.

This feels, when you talk to friends and find that they're staying in with their children all day because the area outside their front door has been turned into something that looks as though a bomb has hit it, and when you talk to friends who do open their front door and find a looter in a balaclava hiding in their garden, like the end of something, and the start of something else. It feels like the end of getting up in the morning and knowing that you'll be able to go to work safely, and get home safely, and do your job safely when you're there.

For some of us, the only sign on our doorsteps was even more police cars screeching past than usual, and shops that closed early, and helicopters overhead. For my neighbours, down the road in Dalston, and down the road in Hackney, it wasn't. For the man, for example, who runs a pharmacy in Mare Street and watched a group of teenagers try to trash his shop, which was, he said, "everything he had", and who pleaded with them not to, it must have felt like the end of everything he'd spent his whole life working to build up.

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