By Sean Matgamna
After the riots in the streets, the Establishment itself is now rioting and running amok – against the poor, the deprived, the socially excluded, awkward-squad young people, and anyone who committed what would normally be a petty offence during the riots and looting.
The press and Tory politicians are whipping up a crusade of class hatred and class scapegoating against the poor. The language is that of stark class hatred. They talk of a revolt of the 'chavs'. Some of them denounce the rioters and looters as "feral rats".
Hundreds have already been jailed, for trivial offences.
Women with young children are being jailed for petty theft and "receiving" such things as a looted pair of trainers! Police are breaking into flats mob-handed looking for looted goods.
While the politicians rant, the judges and magistrates inflict custodial sentences for petty offences on children and adolescents, remanding them without bail and then jailing them.
So far [Sunday, 14] 2275 people have been arrested in connection with the disturbances, more than half of them under 18. The Daily Telegraph estimates that one in five of those who have so far appeared in court are children. At least 1000 more arrests are predicted and promised.
The courts are sitting all day and sometimes through the night. [The Daily Telegraph, Tuesday, Aug 16 Carried as is front page headline: "Ignore the rule book and lock up looters, JPs told"]
The Judges and Magistrates spout long bottled-up class hatred. They sound like people suddenly released from the constraints of pretend-decency and the need to hide their ingrained class prejudices.
It is as if Britain has been plunged back decades - or into Victorian times.
What's going on? The Tories are riding the tide of resentment and fear generated by the riots and looting to promote their own regressive law and order agenda. That agenda has as much to do with preparing for the working class reaction which they expect when the cuts really begin to bite as it does with responding to the riots and the looting.
They see their chance. And they've grabbed it with both hands. All is now "criminality", pure criminality. And social conditions, exclusion, deprivation? Nothing to do with it. All is criminality, criminality, criminality!
No one with any sense will endorse, still less glorify or romanticise, the four-day outbreak of street violence, random destruction and pitiful looting that swept over Britain last week. But the Labour Movement needs to come out firmly and loudly in defence of those now being subjected to a reign of terror by the press, the police, the courts, right wing politicians like the Prie Minister and Tory-run local councils.
Tory-run Wandsworth Council has served an eviction notice on a woman because her son has been charged with theft during the riots. Other councils are threatening to do the same. This sort of "collective punishment" is forbidden under the Geneva Convention even in areas of ongoing military conflict!And he had only been charged, not convicted.
Look at some more of the court cases so far.
A 21-year-old has been given 10 weeks in jail for having in his possession a pair of trainers, without any direct evidence that he had looted them.
In Manchester, when Ursula Nevin, a woman of 24 with two children, was being sent to jail for receiving a pair of shorts from her allegedly-looting flatmate, the smug Judge, Kalid Qureshi, ranted at her that her first reaction should have been, "get that stuff out of my house. I have two children that I'm responsible for." The judge then forgot the children when he sentenced her to 5 months imprisonment.
At Camberwell, District Judge Tan Ikram told a trainee plumber he had just sentenced to a term in jail for being in possession of a looted pair of trainers (which he claimed he found): "There has been unprecedented violence on the streets: boundaries, robberies, looting, criminal damage, arson – it has been chaos. Let the message go out: any person who finds the proceeds of looting and chooses to keep them would face immediate sentences of imprisonment."
The Tories set the tone and the pace. Prime Minister David Cameron has enunciated a new approach to law and order and policing - Zero Tolerance, the policy pioneered in New York City. It means that the police come down hard on the pettiest infringement of the law. What the magistrates and judges are doing right not is a foretaste of that.
Margaret Thatcher appointed the American industrial thug, strike-breaker and union-buster, Iain McGregor, as head of the National Coal Board in preparation for the miners strike in the mid-80s. Cameron seemed to be considering the appointing the American cop, Bill Bratton, who ran that system in New York, as chief of the London Metropolitan police!
Bratton's outlook is encapsulated in a piece of his wisdom that has made its way into the British press: children should be made to fear the police. He is going to advise Cameron from now on.
It's a fact, and a grim, telling one, that the top British policemen are being a lot more liberal than the government or the Tory politicians and newspapers. They act as a restraining influence on the government. Sir Hugh Orde, former head of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, has come out against the use of water cannon and plastic bullets. It would however, be very foolish to rely on such people.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has called for a public enquiry into the riots. He says that if the government continues to refuse, then the Labour Party will organise its own enquiry. It should be a full labour movement enquiry, involving the trade unions.
But the decisive immediate test for the Labour leaders is whether they recognise and oppose this large-scale reactionary orgy of baying hysterical abuse against the poor.
The first thing is to denounce and name for what it is the wave of reaction that is sweeping Britain in the aftermath of the riots.
As against Cameron, Miliband mutters timidly that social conditions had some part in generating the riots. All in all, so far they have failed miserably to even begin to do what needs to be done.