Much like many people in and around London, as well as other spots of mayhem in the country, these last few days have been quite manic for me to say the least.
On my way back from a friend’s on Saturday night, and led by helicopter lights, I found myself in the middle of a showdown between a large mob, formed mainly of an irate gang, and a skinny line of thickly armoured police officers. The officers were far outnumbered and even looked a bit shaken but nonetheless they stood their ground against the swarm of black hoodies taunting them with words, bottles and bricks – literally anything that could remotely tip the scales in favour of an all out war. After a dodgy murder on their hands only a couple nights before, it’s easy to understand that the police were just a little hesitant to make any sudden rash decisions.
The boys smelt fear like sharks pick up blood in water and let havoc wreak on the streets. You’ve probably seen it on TV already so this won’t be new to you. I though, had to run from gas cylinders being hauled at burning double decker buses.
Across the street from where I was standing, one of the first acts of looting happened: it took only minutes for a Barclays bank to be broken into and a cash machine dragged out and buried under scores of hooded youngsters. There were helicopters in the sky but all they could do was illuminate the street every now and then and only momentarily. The mob eventually had ruthless control of almost everything in site and many ‘mini-mobs’ broke away to commence a rampage on nearby stores. What begun as a showdown between ‘the man’ and the mob had now mutated into a cancerous spate of smash-ins and looting, chiefly for personal benefit.
On Monday, it turned out that some violence had erupted in Croydon as well but as I was in the city during the day, I came back to meet what was left of it – shards of glass from broken-in windows of shops and restaurants . Walking through the centre of Croydon, what I thought, hopefully, had been a minor incident turned out to be out one of the worst of all. I visited the furniture store that had been there since 1867, to find firemen dousing the flames, smoke still blackening the sky. Further down South Croydon, there was a small corner shop in which a solemn family was picking up off the floor what they could salvage, all in total silence. Nevertheless, looting was still going on just down the road with absolute ease. It was so easy that there was not a single person running. One bicycle store was meticulously looted, as looters rode out, stashed their loot and casually strolled back in. And, within plane site of view of the bicycle store was an electronic store, that was being emptied to the amusement of a handful of onlookers, including an actual employee of the store.
Today, most of Croydon (as well as many affected areas in the country) was shut down and would be till further notice. We can only wait for the widespread disease of chaos to subside. While everyone’s trying to figure out the rocket science of why young teenagers looted across the country while police presence was next to nothing, here are a few pictures of my weekend.
Words and images by Olumide S Akingbade.by