On Feeling a Fraud : Riots and Resistance : Occupy!

I started to put this post together a few hours ago. I wanted to put up a number of stimulating links, particularly a couple on the riots written from a youth work and youth policy stance.  Whilst I was deeply conscious that today is November 17, the anniversary of the Greek student uprising against the military junta in 1973 , I was going to mention its significance only in passing. However, as the day has unfolded, events have overtaken me. In Greece a new tyranny, the tyranny of the market, threatens the vestiges of representative democracy.  In both Greece and Italy demonstrations, sometimes ritualistic, oppose the imposition of unelected ‘technocratic’ regimes.  Occupy Wall Street is swept violently from the streets, yet seeks to return. In the UK peaceful protestors at Fortnum and Mason are found guilty of ‘aggravated trespass’, whilst the Corporation  of London seeks to evict the occupation outside St Paul’s.

I am kept in touch with events, most immediately by Twitter, an admission that still amuses most of my friends. This is the bloke, who can’t text, yet tweets! And, I must admit that the Twitter world is exasperating, yet illuminating.  Thus, whilst all this mayhem is unfolding, I keep getting tweets from a parallel universe, the Children and Young People Now Awards ceremony, where all manner of awards are up for competition, from Best Corporate Parent to Financial Capability to Third Sector Engagement, not to mention the Preventative Work Award, which went to TWISTA, Cheshire Constabulary, who we presume do not don riot gear or use pepper spray unless instructed. A Dissident Young Person’s Award is conspicuous by its absence.

All of which does make me feel a bit of a fraud, cocooned in front of this computer, in body distant from events. However this does not automatically rule my observations out of court.

Thus, two pieces from respected youth work commentators on the riots,  John Pitts and Mark Smith.

John in Riotous Behaviour in Youth and Policy 107, argues:

Conservatives have explained the August riots of 2011 in terms of a ‘moral breakdown’, wherein
‘broken families’, with an unjustified ‘sense of entitlement’ have created a ‘broken society’.
‘Progressives’ have pointed to the way bored, thwarted, consumers, on the social margins, turned
their rage upon a consumer society that has rejected them. At present, however, the Conservative
explanation is getting a far better press because the ‘progressive’ account is so obviously an
idealisation of a far more nuanced reality, while the Conservatives account articulates with deeply
felt, popular, prejudices. However, because riots in the UK are relatively infrequent and the causes
cited by both camps are perennial this article endeavours to identify the specific factors which
turned a ‘drama’ into a ‘crisis’ in August 2011.


young people and the 2011 ‘riots’ in England – experiences, explanations and implications for youth work

In this briefing Mark K Smith examines some key aspects of what happened, explanations of what may have contributed to the ‘riots’ and disturbances, and the implications for youth work and youth workers.

Away from the riots and youth work, but not so far away,

Fortnum & Mason Trial Defendents Convicted

One of the convicted, Adam Ramsay concludes,

Even the crime for which we were on trial – aggravated trespass – was invented in 1994 with the intention of criminalising protest. The nature of the charge meant that there was no jury – just a lone judge. We might chant that the streets are ours, but the courthouse clearly is not. And whatever ruling it comes to, it is not where our battles will be won. So, we will see you on the picket lines and on the streets.

And Ellie Mae O’Hagan suggests that:

The Fortnum & Mason protest verdict: a farcical injustice

The conviction of 10 ‘sensible’ UK Uncut protesters is a clear and chilling signal to peaceful activists across the country.

Meanwhile the Occupy movement, composed of ‘crusties’ according to the increasingly isolated and comic Boris Johnson, is proving to be evermore irritating to the powerful, being determined to  generate all manner of debate about the state we’re in.

In London the Occupy group ask us to:

Help draft the global statement for the Occupy movement

Their adversaries in the Corporation of the London move to eviction.

Occupy London: business as usual as eviction deadline passes

In New York it’s all a lot rougher and as the camp is smashed up, Laura Penny proposes that:

The dismantling of Occupy Wall Street’s library is a metaphor for how our culture is policed.

Years ago in a piece on Class Politics and Youth Work I posed the question of how far youth workers, together with young people, ever came close to the reality of people in living struggle, ever ventured near to picket lines, demonstrations, occupations? As I sit here I wonder anew about how many youth groups have visited the Occupations scattered across the country? Doing so is called social and political education with no guarantees about how young people will react and argue.

Occupy London protesters take over empty UBS bank offices

Activists host press conference in building owned by Swiss bank as St Paul’s Cathedral camp faces high court action

2 comments on “On Feeling a Fraud : Riots and Resistance : Occupy!

  1. Ciara says:

    I brought a group of Youth Work students to the Occupation at St. Pauls this week. It was an intense day, well worth it, and as I am an eternal optimist, I hope one that will trigger dialogue in the classroom for weeks to come.
    The Youth Assemblies on Suday evenings show clearly that the occupation is being fully engaged with by significant numbers of young people and youth organisations, but that they tend to be the ones away from the mainstream, the real grass-roots, ad-hoc collectives of young people comming together in issue based groups, without funding, furniture or even youth workers of any sort engaging with them.

  2. Tony Taylor says:

    Ciara, thanks for this contribution from the ground – much appreciated. Again, amongst other things, I hadn’t caught up with there being a specific youth assembly on Sunday evening. Has anyone out there been involved in these gatherings?

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