No one could have predicted how quickly the violence that began in Tottenham on Saturday after the shooting of Mark Duggan would erupt in Liverpool. On Monday, the city centre came off better than elsewhere in the city thanks to good local police planning. The North Face store fared worst than most, its glass front smashed in and new stock the obvious first target for thugs and thieves. The girls opening the shop, disappointed and disgusted though they looked, were industriously clearing up and sorting the shop out.
People on their way to investigate rumours of a trashed McDonalds and Primark obviously expected the staffs’ pragmatic attitude, asking them when they would be opening later on today. Elsewhere fared far worse and the images of Smithdown and other parts of south Liverpool show just his bad it got.
What we could have predicted was how quickly the people of Liverpool resolved to help themselves, not to North Face jackets, but by clearing up the mess left in Wavertree and the south of the city. It’s a sign of how proud and powerful the Liverpool community is that this morning people young and old, students, nurses, and pensioners were out doing their best to clean up. Broken glass was swept away and debris cleared.
As Charles Jupiter, organiser of a clean-up Liverpool group on Tuesday said, ‘I wouldn’t let them do it to my house. I won’t let them do it to my city.’ On Wednesday morning, after the second night of violence, people were again out helping clear the worst of a burnt out caravan on Lodge Lane and repairing the Earl Marshall pub nearby as best they could. Most people acknowledge the police doing their best and dealing effectively with the isolated incidents of last night. But they also recognise that it is the community spirit that will decide how their city deals with violent crime and who wins out.
The legacy of riots figures large in Liverpool’s cultural memory. At the Liverpool Poetry Cafe at the Bluecoat just two weeks ago, one of the most powerful poems recalled the toxic atmosphere of the Toxteth riots and the fear and destruction of the aftermath. There is a general consensus that although the causes of the riots are very different, come morning nobody has really won. That is except everyone who cares and has a stake in Liverpool who comes together to take pride in their city, not plunder it.
That is most of us.