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Study finds anger with police fuelled England's summer riots

A major study by the Guardian newspaper and the London School of Economics has shed light on the causes of the unprecedented riots in English cities in August.

Image: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire/Press Association Images

A MAJOR STUDY of the riots which hit England earlier this year has found that they were fuelled partly by anger and frustration with the police in areas where unrest took place.

In conjunction with the London School of Economics (LSE), the Guardian newspaper has conducted what it says is the biggest study into the cause of the four-days of civil unrest which hit London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham and other cities across England in August of this year.

Analysts at the LSE found that antipathy and distrust towards police forces were the key driving forces of the riots with many of those interviewed expressing frustration with police subjecting members of their community to stop and search.

Stop and search or ‘sus’ is a measure whereby police can stop and search and individual if there is reasonable grounds for suspecting that person may be carrying a weapon or stolen goods.

Some of those interviewed also expressed grievances with the political classes.

Interviewing 270 people, and examining 2.5 million riot-related tweets, the study group’s main findings revealed today include:

  • That many rioters saw the unrest as an opportunity to take goods and luxury items they could not normally afford.
  • Gang members played a marginal role in the riots, contrary to Prime Minister David Cameron’s assertion that gangs were “at the heart” of the disturbances. Gangs suspended hostilities over the four-days, the study says.
  • Much of the planning of the riots took place through Blackberry’s free messaging service (BBM) and not Twitter as some had suspected. Indeed an analysis of millions of tweets found the microblogging service was mostly responsible for the response to the riots and the clean-up operations.
  • Those involved came from a cross-section of backgrounds though many of the rioters were young and male. Just under half of the 270 people interviewed were students. Of those not in education and of a working age, 59 per cent were unemployed.

For more information, see the Guardian’s Reading the Riots section >

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Hugh O'Connell

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