Video: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play Anti-Austerity Song ‘Riot’, Released on Sixth Anniversary of UK Riots


Listen to ‘Riot’ hereA photo of the London riots in August 2011., and watch the live video here.

Exactly six years ago, on August 6, 2011, riots erupted across the UK. The trigger had been the killing, by police, of Mark Duggan in Tottenham in north London the day before, and for the next three days there were riots across the country — the largest riots in modern British history, as 14,000 people took to the streets.

As I wrote back in May, when my band The Four Fathers released our song, ‘Riot’, which was partly inspired by the 2011 riots, “Buildings and vehicles were set on fire, there was widespread looting, and, afterwards, the police systematically hunted down everyone they could find that was involved — particularly through an analysis of CCTV records — and the courts duly delivered punitive sentences as a heavy-handed deterrent.”

I wrote about the riots at the time, in an article entitled, The UK “Riots” and Why the Vile and Disproportionate Response to It Made Me Ashamed to be British, and my song ‘Riot’ followed up on my inability to accept that the British establishment’s response to the riots had been either proportionate or appropriate.

As I put it in the first verse of ‘Riot’:

The establishment want us to believe everything is fine
But they’re brutal and intolerant if they think we step out of line
In 2011 when there was unrest in the streets
They hunted down those who stole a bottle of water while the bankers all walked free
They stole billions, they crashed the system and lost money for millions
But they never paid nothing and it’s the stench of this hypocrisy
That means that there must be a
Riot Riot Riot
Till you treat us all with decency

Above is a video (via YouTube — also on Facebook here) of us playing ‘Riot’ in the lovely little rock and roll basement of Vinyl Deptford, a record shop near our band’s home in south east London, at a gig in April. Thanks to Ellen for recording the video, as part of a set of three videos, all of which I subsequently edited. We have previously released ‘Rebel Soldier’ (on YouTube here and on Facebook here) and our cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’ (on YouTube here and on Facebook here). I hope you enjoy this latest video. The recording only contains the second and third verses, unfortunately, but the full version of the song is, of course, included in the studio recording.

The anniversary of the riots seems barely to have been marked in the mainstream media, although Mark Duggan’s family held their annual vigil at Tottenham Police Station on Saturday. Poet and writer Chimene Suleyman wrote an article for the Guardian, ‘A moment that changed me: walking home through the London riots in 2011’, and journalist Sophia Akram compared Mark Duggan’s death with that of Rashan Charles, killed this year, in an article for the Huffington Post, but there the media’s references to the riots end, even though, as Sophia Akram concluded her article:

A film about the 2011 riots from the viewpoint of those at the heart of them quoted Martin Luther King at its beginning – “A riot is the language of the unheard”.

Are people being heard? Well we have rising inequality and between 10% and 30% of deaths after police contact are black men. Charles along with Edir Da Costa and Darren Cumberbatch are the most recent cases from the shocking statistics. And a perception that there still hasn’t been any justice.

Saturday 4 August will be six years since Duggan’s death and the month when the 2011 riots began. And the situation is all depressingly familiar.

As I described the situation in 2011 when ‘Riot’ was released in May:

[N]o effort was made to address the reasons why people were so ready to revolt, and comments like those made by David Cameron, who called the rioters “broken” and “sick,” and Ken Clarke, then the Justice Secretary, who called them “feral,” were unhelpful. In fact, as Reading the Riots, a collaboration between the Guardian and the LSE established, the key reasons for the unrest were “[w]idespread anger and frustration at people’s every day treatment at the hands of police,” including the “use of stop and search, which was felt to be unfairly targeted and often undertaken in an aggressive and discourteous manner”, and “perceived social and economic injustices,” including “the increase in tuition fees, … the closure of youth services and the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance.”

University tuition fees had been trebled at the end of 2010, in a move that had seen the first widespread acts of civil disobedience under the coalition government, and youth services across the country had largely been cut almost as soon as the government took office in May 2010. In addition, the government had scrapped the EMA, which had provided financial support to pupils from poor backgrounds. All were understandable grievances as a response to the clear attack on poorer members of society through the government’s austerity programme.

I wrote about these protests at the time in a series of articles — see, for example, 50,000 Students Revolt: A Sign of Much Greater Anger to Come in Neo-Con Britain, Did You Miss This? 100 Percent Funding Cuts to Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Courses at UK Universities and Cameron’s Britain: “Kettling” Children for Protesting Against Savage Cuts to University Funding.

The report into the 2011 riots also found that gang involvement had been overstated by the authorities, as had the use of social media, and that rioters’ “involvement in looting was simply down to opportunism.”

The response of the courts was so heavy-handed that, I believe, it has left a permanent recognition amongst the less privileged members of society that there are two rules in play — one for the rioters, who, in one case, received a six-month prison sentence for stealing £3.50-worth of mineral water from an already looted store, and another for the bankers, the self-styled “Masters of the Universe,” who were not punished at all for their crimes that led to the global crash of 2008.

And as we look at the situation six years on from the 2011 riots, it is also worth reflecting the fact that, in the last year, another shocking example of contempt by the authorities emerged in June, when Grenfell Tower in west London was consumed in an inferno that was entirely preventable, and that only occurred because protections for the poor had gradually been whittled away over the years, to enable the rich to make greater profits.

And in Tottenham? Well, far from understanding the difficulties imposed on communities that face deprivation and poverty, Haringey Council — a Labour council — recently announced its intention to enter into a disgraceful deal with property developer Lendlease, who will provide funds for the council in exchange for leading the “regeneration” of Haringey’s social housing stock; in reality, the demolition of estates including Broadwater Farm, where Mark Duggan lived, and the social cleansing of the estates’ inhabitants.

I wrote about this housing scandal recently, in an article entitled, Haringey and the Wholesale Social Cleansing of London: Thousands of Social Tenants to Be Removed Via Estate Regeneration, and I wonder if those affected by this colossal programme of social cleansing — not just in Haringey, but across London’s 32 boroughs — will accept their homelessness, or their exile or banishment willingly, or if they will fight back?

Six years on from the 2011 riots, it would, I think, be impossible for anyone truly objective to say that conditions have changed favourably for the capital’s poorer inhabitants, as their very existence in the city that many of them have always called home comes under a sustained, unprecedented, and, to my mind, absolutely unforgivable threat.

Below is the studio recording of ‘Riot.’ Please have a listen, and feel free to buy it as a download if you’d like to support our work.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

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One Response

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    On the sixth anniversary of the UK riots that saw 14,000 people involved in unrest up and down the country after police shot and killed Mark Duggan in Tottenham, I remember the events of that time, as my band The Four Fathers release a live video of us playing ‘Riot’, an anti-austerity song I wrote that deals with the riots in its first verse. I hope you have time to read the article and to watch the video, and to remember how those disenfranchised in 2011, who rose up against police violence and austerity, are no less disenfranchised now, as deaths in police custody continue, and across the capital councils – including Labour councils, as in Tottenham – press ahead with estate demolition plans that are nothing more than exercises in greed and social cleansing, cynically packaged up as progress and necessity.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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