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Street Thugs

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 13 years ago, in 2011, on the World Wide Web.

From England:

So far, police have arrested more than 1,700 suspects. About 1,000 of those have been charged. Of those convicted some are receiving what seem to be tough sentences.

Take Anderson Fernandes. He faces possible jail time for stealing two scoops of ice cream during a Manchester riot. There are other cases involving petty theft like stealing a bottle of water, a cake and chewing gum.

. . . Politicians and the public [sic] have demanded tough sentences.

And that may explain what seem to be particularly harsh sentences for Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenen. They each got four years in prison for using Facebook to incite a riot, or rather failing to incite a riot.

Both invited their Facebook friends to join in the looting with a “smash down” at an appointed place and time. No one showed up, however, except for police who promptly arrested them.

. . .

But many also feel that harsh punishments are necessary to let offenders know the riots were not a free-for-all without consequences.

Riots and looters trashed the pretty and normally placid suburb of Ealing, west London last week. The day after, I stood in the riot debris and an elderly woman stopped for a chat.

She lamented the state of Britain’s youth and suggested one way to deal with it. They should bring back … execution, she said grimly, drawing a finger across her throat.

— Atika Shubert, CNN World (2011-08-17): Riot sentences stir backlash in UK

I’m reminded of the time that Lyndon Johnson took a brief break from napalming Vietnamese children to get on the TV in July 1967, in order to speak out on the riots in Detroit, and to declare that We will not endure violence. It matters not by whom it is done or under what slogan or banner. It will not be tolerated. Which is why — under the slogan of public order and the banner of the United States government — he sent tanks and soldiers down Woodward Avenue, so that they could massacre unarmed teenagers at the Algiers Hotel, and join the local police in gunning down looters and curfew violators.

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  1. Wonks Anonymous

    Ed Glaeser argues that police can control crowds by arresting really massive numbers of people, then letting them go later without charges.

    Personally, I favor Napoleon’s whiff of grapeshot when there’s a rampage in the streets (an established number of warning shots can be fired first). I suppose under anarchism it would be up to local militia to clear crowds, is that right?

    • Rad Geek

      Under anarchy, being in a crowd is not in itself a crime, and nobody has the right to attack people simply because they won’t “disperse” on command. Free association and all that.

      Nor is it a crime to resist, fight off, or torch the cars of, invaders who are constantly assaulting, abducting, jailing, or killing you and your mates, because, e.g., you are allegedly selling drugs to willing customers, or because you won’t disperse on command. That is, rather, a legitimate act of self-defense. That is not of course a good reason to attack innocent people’s homes or shops. (In this respect, there’s an important distinction to be made between the rioting and the looting.)

      If someone (in a crowd, or individually) is looting, i.e., trespassing or threatening to vandalize or burgle your home or your shop or your temple, you do of course have a right to defend that by means proportional to the threat. Not by, e.g., shooting unarmed looters in the back (as repeatedly happened during the occupation of Detroit), or by hunting them down later, *after* the threat has passed, surrounding them with overwhelming force, pulling them into a car and locking them in a cage for 4 years. Especially not for acts that *had no actual damages to any identifiable victim*. If you want to know how innocent people can deal with the danger caused by riot or looting, then I’d look to the example of the London Sikh community on this; not the example of Metropolitan murder force.

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