Struggling to understand why you’d burn out your neighbours

8/8 One Year On: As we approach the anniversary of the London riots, we will be publishing readers’ and contributors’ memories of that darkest of nights, their views and hopes for the future.

One year on, local political figure SHASHA KHAN still cannot understand why people in his own area of West Croydon torched their neighbours’ homes and businesses

I remember listening to BBC London reporting on the events during the day. Then I got a text from a Green Party colleague Grace Onions saying that her husband just rang to say that police and rioters were standing off at West Croydon station.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I didn’t think the events from the previous evening would spread to Croydon.

As the evening unfolded, I watched television in shock as Reeves Corner went up in flames.

However, it was only the next morning did I realise the colossal damage inflicted on London Road, West Croydon. The area on the junction with St James Road looked like it had experienced a bomb blast. I live in this area. I remember trying to understand why people who also live in this area would decide to torch it.

As I walked around Croydon over the next couple of days, I took pictures of the destruction which make up the montage posted at the top of this page.

At the time, I was asked to comment on the events in the local papers. I said that people aren’t born looters, muggers or arsonists. Something has gone dreadfully wrong in our society for this to happen. My views haven’t changed.

We are a nation of haves and have-nots. It was Daily Telegraph columnist Peter Oborne who captured the moment when he wrote:

“But the rioters have this defence: they are just following the example set by senior and respected figures in society.”

Recently we have all read about the scandal of Barclays Bank and fixing the Libor rates which has affected many businesses, to the tune of many millions of pounds.

Will we see prosecutions? Of course not. Yet, when businesses were looted by the rioters, many young people had the proverbial book thrown at them for stealing as little as a bottle of water.

The local Staples store around the corner was closed for a while after being attacked on 8/8. The manager explained to me that two “groups of rioters” came to the store. The first group looted it. The second group arrived later, and upon realising the good stuff had already been taken, set fire to it. Staples did not renew the lease on the building and have now moved out the area.

A year on, I actually feel more of a bond with area I live in, and my neighbours. It is as if we are united by the image that we belong to.

I stood by the London Road crater as the Olympic torch went through last week, carried by local sports coach Mike Fleet. Ironically, about a year ago, another torch bearer came to this exact location.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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