An actual first-hand account
One of a few Commune members who has been observing the events in Hackney gives a brief report. For updates, follow our twitter. More reports and analysis to follow.
Yesterday in Hackney there was an air of anticipation and waiting, some kind of word had gone round that “Today’s Hackney”. People were hanging around on corners and shopkeepers were standing on the pavement outside their shops. There was some running backwards and forwards, then the flashpoint came when the police stopped and searched two black men on the Narrow Way. A big crowd gathered and surrounded the police, and people were shouting that police harrassment was the cause of the riots in Tottenham. Reinforcements quickly came with riot gear and started chasing people around and trying to block people in.
The crowd ended up on Mare Street and a pattern soon developed where the police had a strong line to the north of the street, slowly advancing, and also blocking some side streets, and the crowd were gathered and moving slowly south. Whenever the police advanced people panicked and ran but in general the police were not trying to make arrests or charge seriously. Possibly their main priority was keeping people away from the shops in the Narrow Way.
The businesses that were damaged on Mare Street were fairly targetted: businesses seen as parasites like the bookmakers, the Cashconverters pawn shop and so on; a bank; and places with valuables such as a sports shop and a jewellers’. The petrol station was also looted for drinks and people handed out bottles of water to strangers. The only cafe looted was one which is a big chain and also has no atmosphere and really crap tea so I had no problem with it. Quite ridiculously one of the few arrests early in the day was a kid who had looted a packet of crisps from there. A man with a good grasp of targetted looting was shouting to the crowd “if it ain’t gold, don’t be bold!” The atmosphere during the day was pretty friendly and open, the crowd was very multiracial and of different ages and there was lot of passive support. The line between spectators and participants wasn’t clear. There was only one attempted mugging which was broken up quickly by the crowd.
Later on in the night people were gathered around Clarence Road, next to the Pembury Estate. Possibly the police were trying to keep them there away from the shops and main roads or maybe people felt comfortable there. There were quite a few burning cars and a line of riot cops that every now and then someone threw a bottle at. The atmosphere there was pretty different, heavier and nastier. There were some robberies of people in the crowd and I didn’t feel as safe as I did earlier. The convenience store on Clarence Road was looted for drinks which was upsetting and today I can hear lots of people objecting to: “He’s been here twenty years”, “we all shopped there” and so on.
Today walking around that is the only small shop attacked that I have seen apart from one optician, the rest are electrical goods shops or big brand stores. Contrary to what I’ve heard I didn’t see any houses burned but there were a lot of burned out cars. One thing that I keep hearing people say is “What’s the point of cleaning it all up when it’s all going to happen again tonight?”