Croydon riots 10 years on: A decade of missed opportunity

West Croydon, Aug 9 2011: few lessons have been learned from a devastating night of rioting

Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the Croydon riots, an outbreak of disorder that followed similar violence elsewhere in the capital that week in August 2011. Here, local lawyer and community activist MARINA AHMAD says that the government has failed since to provide the investment needed in children, families and communities to prevent a repetition

My challenge to government today, on this 10th anniversary of a week where our streets burned, is to step up so that “never again” truly means “never again”.

I will never forget looking out of my front door that August evening and watching the smoke in the sky from 3 miles away. Then turning on the TV and seeing the Reeves building on fire, creating the smoke I could see.

Was this really happening in a place I loved and knew so well? Yes, it was. Five lives lost. Four days of unrest, fear and anger. A friend who lived in West Croydon with her small son, phoned me and said she wanted the army on the streets.

I had my head in my hands thinking “What have we come to when people want the armed forces patrolling the streets to protect them?”

We knew within a short time many of the reasons why people took to the streets. There was the shooting of Mark Duggan by the police which has been part of the backdrop to the lower levels of trust black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have towards the Met.

There was poverty, inequality and lack of opportunity.

And for me, most disturbing was the lack of hope young people felt about their futures.

I’m not encouraged by government policy over the last 10 years. Austerity and a culture of cutting prevention and intervention services show short-sightedness and a real lack of understanding about the issues that led to our streets burning 10 years ago.

This has been a decade of not only missed opportunity and but of pursuing policies which exacerbate the problems.

Probably the most horrifying image of the Croydon riots, taken in Church Street  on the night of 8/8

Covid has laid bare the inequalities that led to the riots. As furlough ends and poverty rises, the challenges for the “forgotten families” will only grow starker.

We’ve seen huge cuts to schools funding with the risk of vulnerable children being left behind increasing all the time.

“In-work poverty” should be a contradiction in terms – I’ve met people who are working two, three jobs but are still in poverty. How is that possible in the fifth richest economy in the world?

In London, since 2016, City Hall has been working to plug some of the gaps government cuts have created. Interventions through initiatives such as the Young Londoners Fund has meant that over 110,000 young people have been helped by providing education and training.

Forging better relationships between communities and the Met has been a key priority through the Mayor’s Action Plan.

Small businesses are the backbone to local economies and suffered badly during the riots. The Mayor has long recognised this and has been supporting high streets: £75million of funding from City Hall has been awarded to 138 regeneration projects to ensure those communities are not left behind.

Government needs to step up and understand that prevention is better than cure. That investment in children, families and communities now is an investment in the future of this country. The words “Never again” only become a reality when they are backed by real and effective action.

My challenge to government today, on this 10th anniversary of a week where our streets burned, is to step up so that “never again” truly means “never again”.

  • Marina Ahmad (pictured right) is the London Assembly Member for Lambeth and Southwark. This is the text of her speech given yesterday at an event to mark the 10th anniversary of the London riots

Read more: Croydon riots 10 years on: ‘I was in real fear for my family’
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Read more: Croydon riots 10 years on: Risks greater now than in 2011

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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
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