Tag Archives: London Riots

“Do the Right Thing” Detroit!

spike lee“Do the Right Thing”, Spike Lee’s critically acclaimed film about racial tensions leading to a riot in Brooklyn is a poetic description of tensions brewing again in Detroit. In his movie, the heat of the summer drenched the neighborhood in frustration as racial prejudices simmered and then snapped in a triggering event that led to a rioting climax.

Detroit is a city, region, and state that seems destined to repeat its failures of the past. Embroiled in its latest crisis, the answer seems once again that a white majority will impose its will on a black, oppressed minority. How fairly that the white majority’s will is imposed will be critical to the measure of civil reaction, but nonetheless, unless found to be unconstitutional, it’s voting majority will be imposed. Rather than work to build revenues through a viable plan, the state has hired an emergency manager whose responsibility will be to impose austerity on the city.

Detroit’s fiscal problem of too few citizens covering pension and infrastructure costs of a bygone era that had 250% of its current population will be met by a state that has drawn a battle line with Proposal 2. The short term solution, given this paradigm, will be to impose some austerity. In Greece and in London, this solution has created riots. In London, the first riots occurred just because meetings were occurring to discuss what austerity measures would be imposed later. Could the sweltering summer of 2013 be the breaking point for Detroit?

Voicing this issue will no doubt raise the ire of Detroiters that may be concerned that merely mentioning the word riot could inspire would be rioters to carry on Detroit’s tradition. However, if the slightest possibility exists that racial tensions are now such that civil unrest could be a result of future measures to be imposed, then reasoning in relative safety of pre-action discourse is a safety valve on the issue. Raising the question should be viewed dispassionately as part of the solution to the potential problem that is brewing.

The white majority, now living in the suburbs, left Detroit. The city now must pay for pensions and infrastructure that were incurred to support suburbians, their parents and their grandparents, before they left for the suburbs. Now after having used Detroit’s infrastructure, and after having left the legacy costs to a much smaller, entrapped, vastly black population of Detroit Proper to pay for them, the white majority is going to impose austerity on this entrapped population to pay for those past services and infrastructure.

This scenario, however correct or flawed in its interpretation, is what will be the match that lights the tender box of continuing institutional racism in Michigan. History has shown that a small youth gang disturbance, or a police scene at a party is all that is needed to leave scores dead and hundreds injured when such rife brews undetectable at the surface.

In Spike Lee’s movie, a wise elderly town drunk with a good and decent heart that the neighborhood calls “the mayor” tries to stop the riot that begins to build through reasoning with the people on the street. But by the time a riot erupts, reasoning is an obsolete tool of political leadership. Kevin Orr must do what he must do now that the state has imposed its will. The time for reason, community involvement, understanding, and hope for a future after austerity is now. The time for a viable plan for Detroit’s citizens to rise from this bottom is now. The time to add such a plan that brings real hope is now!

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Filed under American Governance, American Politics, City Planning, Economic Crisis, Racism, Social Media Democracy, social trajectory

London Riots and America’s Credit Downgrade are a Forewarning

London is once again experiencing ongoing riots following protests in November ,2010, over tripling of school tuition and again in March, 2011, when demonstrations of over a half million people erupted in riots to protest 81 billion pounds in public spending cuts. This time, the riot was triggered in Tottenham, the poorest section of London, when Mark Duggan, a black youth who had shot a police officer was allegedly dragged from his taxi and killed gang style by other police officers.

Protests turned into three days of violent riots and looting as cars and buses were hijacked and left burning in the streets and fires broke out in different parts of the city. Dozens of police officers were targeted and injured and dozens of rioters were bloodied. Police cars were quickly smashed and fire brigades and emergency medical services were targeted as well when they attempted to enter the scene of the destruction.

While on the surface, this weekend’s riots in London resembled the 1992 Rodney King riots over police brutality in Los Angeles, several differences in both motives and tactics are noticeable. While the trigger was a perceived grossly excessive police action, the anger that has built up due to social cuts that are felt the most in the poorest of neighborhoods is an underlying cause. A sense of hopelessness is setting in as young black males are experiencing the highest unemployment in the UK due to the downturn. Most recently, their neighborhoods have been impacted by the closing of youth centers due to budget cuts. Interviewees in the midst of the riots are expressing that violence is the only real way to get their message to community leadership.

More ominous for our time is the method used by the rioters and looters. Unlike earlier American riots where demonstrating crowds mulled into disruptive forces that overflowed into sporadic rioting and looting, in Britain, hundreds of youths participated in social media flash mobs using text and twitter to quickly gather in diverse locations for rapid guerilla smashing and looting. At each flashpoint, quickly moving gangs of up to several hundred would assemble, sometimes targeting just one large store for looting and destruction, and just as quickly they would disperse as police arrived, only to reappear elsewhere as their social media dictated.

Britain was temporarily spared a downgrading of her credit rating because of the quick action taken by Parliament to enact austerity measures. These actions have spilled out into the streets of London multiple times now. One outcome of America’s credit downgrade is that we will most likely now be forced to follow suit and enact our own austerity measures. Can we learn how to mitigate the impact of austerity measures on our poorest and most likely affected before simply instituting social cuts that will endanger their communities?

Are we prepared for the newest flash mob use of social media? Do our law enforcement and safety infrastructure agencies have the right tools and training to effectively counteract these social guerrillas? Are our police proactively building community relations and preparing their communities for America’s coming frictions? We have seen in England what will be coming to America, and our most recent Congressionally triggered credit rating decrease is a wakeup call for us to use this brief time to prepare.

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Filed under American Governance, Social Media Democracy, social trajectory, U.S. Monetary Policy, U.S. Tax Policy, World Sustainability