On August 4 2011 Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old black man, was subjected by police in Tottenham to a ‘hard stop’, a tactic whereby armed officers box in a vehicle to take the occupant by surprise and make an arrest. In the moments that followed, Duggan was fatally shot in the chest by an officer. The police claim Duggan was armed; and despite the Independent Police Complaints Commission ruling Duggan ‘did not open fire’, his death was later classified as a ‘lawful killing’.
Over the next five days, protests started by family, friends and community leaders led to rioting across the country. This single event seemingly triggered nationwide civil unrest. But Duggan’s death was just the spark. The fuel was a city of increasingly disenfranchised young people. That summer there was record unemployment among young people, youth clubs were closing due to council cuts and Educational Maintenance Allowance had been stopped. In immigrant communities, relationships with the police were increasingly fractured. In 2010, the LSE reported that ‘black people are 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people’, while ‘Asians were six times more likely’ according to Ministry of Justice figures for 2008-2009. Clearly there were existing tensions that contributed to the August unrest.
Fast forward to a post-Brexit world and new tensions have arisen. Race-related hate crimes have spiked – up by 47 percent after the referendum result – while unemployment for black and minority ethnic people aged 16-25 in the UK rose by 50 percent between 2010 and 2015.
Five years later, we know what we’ve always known, really: it wasn’t a single incident that drove people to breaking point, it was real, aggressive inequality. An inequality that still exists today. Now is a good time to remind ourselves that resisting inequality comes from providing a platform for the contributions of young people and immigrant communities, allowing young voices from all backgrounds to be heard, and really listening.