Last Saturday I joined in the 'Give our kids a future' march from Dalston to Tottenham Green. It was called and organised in just three days by anti-cuts and Kurdish and Turkish community groups in Hackney and Haringey, two of the boroughs worst affected by the riots.
The march had several demands:
• A culture of valuing, not demonising youth and unemployed people.Those organising the march knew that it might be misinterpreted, and that feelings are still raw in the area, but they felt that it was important that a different political response be aired to simply "lock them up and throw away the key".
• Support for those affected by the rioting, including the immediate re-housing of people made homeless as well as grants for affected small businesses.
• Community led regeneration and restoration of damaged areas.
• Reversal of all cuts to youth services in our boroughs.
• No cuts to public services! Instead, investment into and regeneration of our communities, including housing, jobs, education and sports facilities.
• An independent community inquiry into policing methods in our boroughs, and an end to discriminatory stop and search.
• Availability of legal support for all those arrested by police - young people face potential sentences that will affect them, their families and their wider communities for years to come.
On the Thursday before, I attended a meeting of Haringey Alliance for Public Services, Haringey's counterpart to our own Barnet Alliance for Public Services, where the march was discussed. On Saturday I helped to leaflet public onlookers as the march took its course. What I learned from those suggests to me it was a correct decision to organise the march. Onlookers were neutral to positive, and nothing went wrong on the day.
The government has announced an extra £10 million each for Tottenham and Croydon to recover from the riots, in addition to the £50 million it is giving London-wide. But what about the cuts? Can anyone honestly say that they think riots and anti-social behaviour generally are less likely as a result of Haringey, for example, being told to cut £40 million from its budget this year?
And what about Barnet? We got off relatively mildly in the recent riots - but what about the future? And why should we wait till trouble comes to our doorstep before we take notice of what is going on? Services for young people in Barnet, and public services generally need to be defended and rebuilt, not cut, as Barnet council plans to do. Roger Tichborne at the Barnet Eye blog has noticed that Barnet council plans to sell off yet more playing fields and community buildings. Property developers are likely to benefit from this, but not the young people of Barnet.
The rot has to stop; anyone who cares at all about what sort of society we live in has to take up this demand: give our kids a future!
Pictures from the march here.