According to an 'arts and features' writer on the Independent, called Holly Walters, (rather than their crime correspondent), there was a riot in Walthamstow on Sunday 6th August 2011. There was certainly some widespread organised burglary and theft in Walthamstow High Street that evening, but at least in the High Street, it was quickly contained and would not in my view have quite counted as a 'riot'. Not in the sense that there was much violence anyway: when the police turned up the crooks mainly ran away.
Ms Walters quotes nobody from Walthamstow in her piece, in which she described the people who were arrested as being people who were caught up in events, having succumbed to 'a moment of madness'. There is one single thief who she did interview, someone who claimed he'd gone to the scene of a riot in Birmingham to film it and them joined in. Maybe he is telling the truth about that, maybe he isn't. She does not quote from what he actually said in court, but tells us what he wants people to know about him a year later, after plenty of time to come up with some justifictions after the fact and serving four months in prison. He blames 'capitalism', but he does not explain, because Ms Walters does not ask, why the rest of his millions of fellow countrymen who also live in a capitalist society with varying levels of success in life did not decide to go out and steal from their neighbours. Even after being convicted for dishonesty, he can still not quite bring himself to admit he is a dishonest person.
"We've all been encouraged to be suspicious", Aston Walker claims, "to be individualistic, out for yourself and the riots are a manifestation of that. It's not a case of anything being learnt: all the veils of mumbo-jumbo have been lifted, the gossamer-thin fig leaves of law and order are just evaporating, and people can see all the corruption."
The idea that the rioters were people who had never before committed crimes and who just gave way to temptation for the first time in their lives is in contrast to what often came out in court: courts where people were given their chance to speak for themselves on oath, with lawyers representing them and every word of their evidence subjected to anxious judicial scrutiny, as opposed to being told to an arts correspondent a year after the event. The real facts, in my view, tended to emerge under questioning in the cold light of day in court as opposed to the guff people have since told their mates in the pub or their doting and sympathetic parents.
These facts often were that many of those arrested were already petty criminals: people taking advantage of chaos in London to carry on with criminal associations, activities and careers which long predate these events. But that does not make for such an interesting story, does it?