8 Heroes of the London Riots

The Blitz had bulldog Winston Churchill, and 7/11 New York had the willful Mayor Giuliani, and London post-riots has…well who does it have?

As I changed my son’s nappy after we woke up this morning, London was bloodied, looted and smouldering. Shockingly, our Prime Minister was yet to make an appearance, our mayor was still on holiday, our police chiefs (COBRA) hadn’t met yet, and the ruined, terrified city looked naked and leaderless. My three  month old merely looked naked and innocent, but strangely as likely as anyone to lead the city’s recovery at that point.

Then something wonderful happened. Whilst the politicians wrung their hands in the shadows, no one person emerged to rally us. So we all decided to do it ourselves.

Heroes emerged from the ruins, both individuals and entire communities. And it looks like they, not David Cameron or Boris Johnson, who’ll help fix London.

Here are some of the ones who have inspired me over the last sad, scary and uncertain 24 hours. There are countless more – if you would like to suggest them, I’d love to hear about them. Hell, we could all use a little pepping up with positive stories right now.

1. The Turks – as many of us shrunk or shook last night, multiple tweets about the proud Turkish community’s stand in Dalston ignited sparks of hope in all of us. Forming a visibly imposing, physical line outside their shops, they stood firm, strong, and unshakably together. Turks 1, Rioters 0. They, along with other ethnic minority groups in the world’s most multicultural city, showed us what community can look like in the face of sickening attack.
2. The West Indian woman who confronted looters in Hackney.  If this woman had a Twitter account, she’d possibly have a following large enough and passionate enough to make the UK’s #1 Tweeter, Stephen Fry jealous. With enough moxie to make even the Iron Lady shrink back, I’m sure all of us wish we had a a tenth of her courage.
3 . Stretched beyond belief, London’s firemen and women are ‘simply doing their job.’ Of course, it’s a job for heroes, many of whom work part-time and never know when the shit will hit the fan, and it’s always worth reminding ourselves of their stunning contribution to getting London back under control.
4. Sky News’ Mark Stone – Mark Stone is a rock of a reporter. With little more protection than his balls of granite, and armed with an iPhone, he rolled, confronted, filmed and filed reports from deep inside the riot zone in Clapham Junction. Here, looters vandalised, looted and assaulted for up to two hours before police presence appeared. Strange reporting  improvisations around empty Immodium packets in Boots merely lent some emotional fragility to his otherwise brick hard determination to report the news. Elsewhere, BBC reporters were attacked (citation missing), a female Guardian journalist was set-upon (citation missing) and countless other brave journalists have suffered for trying to bring us the story as it happens. We salute you.
5. The Ledbury chefs, when they’re not serving up two star Michelin food, are dishing out the pain on criminal trespassers, according to food blogger, Naked Sushi. The foody was violently robbed of her wedding ring whilst in the middle of a special dinner last night, after looters smashed their way in to mug customers. She reports however that, after safely stowing customers in toilets and the wine cellar, they repelled the rioters by “rushing up from the kitchen with rolling pins, fry baskets, and other dangerous kitchen tools and scared off the looters.” Brave boys and girls.
6. The police – ‘Inspector Winter’ offers a first-hand, street level account of the stress and downright terror of a shocke, under-resourced and overwhelmed force attempting to quell the riots. Let’s face it, just seeing the police on the streets under these circumstances is a relief. The question is, how will they fare tonight and will they have access to water cannons, rubber bullets and other riot weapons used by their Northern Irish and European counterparts?
7. Camila Batmanghelidjh is a woman who makes sense. Her bravery extends far beyond the past few days, but her experience and advice seem somehow to be central to helping to rebuilding the city. Listen to her.

8. The people of London. What’s more beautiful than the sight of hundreds of brooms held aloft to clean up riot zones? The fact that it’s ordinary Londoners volunteering to clean up their neigbourhoods. Sometime after midnight (I think…hazy memory), someone suggested on Twitter to clean-up the mess. With the country’s leaders well and truly at sea (or just sunbathing by it), normal people just stepped up to the plate to help straighten London out. It’s awesome and shows that together we can regain control.

And what of tonight? What do we do? How do we stand up to the inevitable onslaught? How do we cope with the aftermath?



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