I hoped Manchester wouldn’t suffer copycat rioting. Lots of rumours and lies were reported via Twitter and Facebook on Monday night but nothing actually happened, so when reports started coming in again on Tuesday I was optimistic that they weren’t true.
I left work early in case the riot vans really were gathering on Oldham Street. I didn’t see any. I walked through the Northern Quarter without incident. Most shops, bars and restaurants had either closed early or pulled their shutters down with customers inside. Every snippet of conversation I overheard predicted a long and troublesome night. There was tension in the air and a sense of dread but as far as I could tell nothing was actually happening.
The quiet didn’t last. Sirens, tactical aid units, police vans and helicopters were out in force to add to what turned out to be a very noisy night. I didn’t see any trouble. I heard it. At one point we ventured outside to move the car to a more secure location; On seeing an ominous horde of hooded youths heading our way we retreated quickly to the safety of our apartment.
I spent half of the night on the phone reassuring family and friends that we were safe. The other half of the night was spent following the unfolding events on twitter.
Twitter: @wes078Wessel: Only in the UK could rioters in £100 trainers organising things on £300 smartphones claim to be in poverty… #londonriots #manchesterriots
The frustrating thing about last night’s chaos is there was no reason for it. They weren’t protesting about anything. People weren’t taking to the streets for something they believed in.
The city centre was flooded with bored kids who had seen looting and vandalism on the news; they wanted in on the action. They thought it looked fun. They thought they could steal ‘free stuff’ and get away with it. They weren’t trying to make a statement. They weren’t trying to change anything. They trashed our beautiful city, for fun.
Twitter: @Harrietgregory: Quote from Waterstone’s employee on the news: “We’ll stay open, if they steal some books they might learn something” #londonriots
I could go on but other bloggers have already summed it up for me:
“The ‘protesters’ in Manchester weren’t outside the police station, or the civil justice building, or the town hall. They were looting shoe shops and electronic stores and clothes shops and engaging in a series of acts of nihilistic destruction, simply because they could. That’s a crime spree, not a protest, and the fact that so many people – young people – apparently see smashing windows, setting fires and stealing stuff as a viable form of entertainment says something fairly unpleasant about our society.”
Jonny Opinion wrote:
“The evening’s incidents weren’t so much riots as spontaneous exercises in radical consumerism. Manchester is not a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It looks a little worse for wear, considering, but that’s how it made its name in the first place. No biggie. As one teenager, his sound bite looped this morning on BBC Radio Manchester forever, put it, “why are you going to miss the opportunity to get free stuff that’s worth, like, loads of money?”.
THE BIG CLEAN UP
It didn’t take long for the people of Manchester to unite and start planning the clean up: @RiotCleanUpManc quickly claimed over 8,000 followers and arranged for volunteers to meet at Piccadilly Gardens at 9 am with gloves, brushes and bin bags to boot. I wanted to join them.
Meanwhile @NQStreetParty made plans for a fundraiser for businesses in the Northern Quarter which had been hit by the vandals (any excuse for a street party or baking contest). A similar fundraiser is being planned for Afflecks.
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON
The quaintest development on Twitter and Facebook was the emergence of “Operation Cup of Tea”; a tongue in cheek Facebook group where people uploaded photographs of themselves staying in for a brew instead of ransacking the streets. How very British!
Twitter: @theleica: Apparently someone tried to use Facebook to organise a riot in Plymouth. Police RSVP’d as attending. #OperationCupOfTea
You have to love the British sense of humour.
Despite pockets of mindless thugs, who will hopefully all be identified and charged, Manchester is a very proud city with real sense of community. Shame on the idiots who thought they could damage our city and our reputation and get away with it. (And that’s why lemmings don’t have green hair – Oh wait, different conversation: The Code BBC2 at 9pm)
Were you caught up in any of the trouble? What was your experience of the ‘rioting’? Did you volunteer for the clean up?