I suppose that I've been spoilt.
In all of the riots that I have been involved in,-whether as a rioter or a Peace Monitor or a Flight Nurse-,there was always the guarantee of a swift and vicious response from the police and/or Army which made the day a little exciting.
There was always tear gas;frequently water cannon;typically baton rounds;occasionally live rounds.
It was the "price" of doing business...because if you were rioting about something important to you and the country...like Apartheid...then you have to understand that the State will respond ferociously and immediately.And I was legally and technically a criminal,even if I felt that what I was doing was moral and ethical.
So part of me doesn't understand why the British Police are standing by and letting criminals run amok in London and elsewhere?
I must say that as a guiding principal I have never had much faith is the Police as an organisation.
I am sure that there are dedicated police officers who work tirelessly to make society a better place by arresting criminals;officers who enjoy their work and do it with passion and zeal...but unfortunately they all happen to be traffic cops.
But I believe that most police officers are simply a representative cross section of the rest of society,reflecting the same intelligence and skills base,interest and enthusiasm, as the staff of your local supermarket...or your rubbish collectors.
I believe three things to be true about the lack of response of the police in London:-
Firstly,that they have deliberately not responded to the rioting because they are trying to make the point that the proposed cuts in police numbers would be catastrophic to society.
Secondly,too many of them have bought into the myth that poverty is an illness and that criminals are victims themselves who need looking after...I have just heard 'Sir' Hugh Orde,the chairman of the ACPO ,say on Sky News,that the police response to the burning of houses,ie doing nothing-, was "proportionate".
He went on to say that the police need to be responsive to the needs of the community....really? Really?
What about my community 'Sir"' Hugh?
Thirdly,a lot of them are simply cowards.
Honestly....give me a baton...I'll happily go and hit people who are burning down houses.
I should say for the record that I was arrested when I was 16 for the first time ,in a school in Soweto,by black security cops,for anti-government activity...trying to establish a library in a 'black' school.But at least I could intellectually admire their enthusiasm and zeal in trying to maintain apartheid even if I had no respect for them as human beings.
I remember spending a day with a Commander from the Metropolitan Police in the early 90's,when he had been sent out to South Africa as part of a European Union team to teach the SAP how to be better policemen.
He was spending a day with me,as a Peace Monitor,because he was tired of being shot at by the locals- (ie the ANC/PAC/IFP)- and laughed at by the police.
He told me the following story.
He was sent to Durban and spent the day with a platoon from the "Public Order Policing" team.
He was in an Nyala armoured car,a beautifully sprung and air conditioned vehicle manufactured by a leading German car company,-see the picture at the top-,and was in a township adjacent to Durban.
(Now I should also say for the record,that my idiot brother was an Inspector in the Riot Police,and routinely drove around with 500 hand grenades and 5000 shotgun shells in his vehicle...for 5 cops)
He was dressed in a white uniform shirt and dark blue uniform trousers.
The South Africans were dressed in camouflage and bullet proof vests.
They drove to an area where a large crowd had gathered ,were tires were burning and people were chanting resistance songs and slogans and were happily toyi-toying.
The Lieutenant in charge of the platoon told the Commander that he would tell the crowd over the tannoy that they had 5 minutes to disperse...and that if they didn't comply in a timeous manner,that the police would open fire with general purpose machine guns.
No no , said the Commander. That was "old style" policing.
Let me show you the new way to police disturbances.
He asked the Lieutenant to open the door.
The Lieutenant looked at him...looked at the driver and shrugged.
The Commander stepped outside and held up his right hand.
As he started to speak, he was dismayed to see several quarter-bricks;half-bricks;whole-bricks;petrol bombs;and even a few assegais come rapidly down on his exalted, new style policing head.
A hand reached out and pulled him into the safety of the Nyala...and the police opened fire with everything at their disposal.
The Commander never offered his advice to anyone again.