Britain's rioters: Young, poor and disillusioned

Britain is bitterly divided on the reasons behind the riots. Some blame the unrest on opportunistic criminality, while others say conflicting economic policies and punishing government spending cuts have deepened inequalities in the country’s most deprived areas.

Many of the youths themselves struggle to find any plausible answer, but a widespread sense of alienation emerges from their tales.

“Nobody is doing nothing for us — not the politicians, not the cops, no one,” a 19-year-old who lives near Tottenham, the blighted London neighbourhood where the riots started. He only gave his nickname, “Freddy,” because he took part in the looting and was scared of facing prosecution; he was not among the youths in court.

Britain has one of the highest violent crime rates in the EU. Roughly 18 per cent of youths between 16 and 24 are jobless and nearly half of all black youths are out of work.

As the government battles colossal government debt with harsh welfare cuts that promise to make the futures of these youths even bleaker, some experts say it’s narrow-minded to believe the riots have only been a random outburst of violence unrelated to the current economic crisis.

“There’s a fundamental disconnect with a particular section of young Britain and sections of the political establishment,” said Matthew Goodwin, a politics professor at University of Nottingham.

“The argument that this doesn’t have anything to do with expenditure cuts or economics doesn’t stand up to the evidence. If that’s true, then what we have here are hundreds of young, crazed kids simply acting irrationally. I don’t think that’s the case.”

Courts have been running nearly 24 hours a day to hear all the cases since the rioting began. Most cases are heard in a blink of an eye and only give a snapshot of some of the youngsters’ lives. Many of the defendants haven’t had a chance to talk at length with their attorneys, and most can’t be named because they are minors.

An 11-year-old boy was among one of the youngest to appear in court. The boy pleaded guilty to burglary, after stealing a waste bin worth 50 pounds.

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