Man accused of sparking 2011 London riots: 'They could happen again'

Marcus Knox-Hooke talks about the current state of his nation

image via Wikipedia

image via Wikipedia

 

Five years after England's worst riots in a generation, the man accused of triggering four days of violence says they could happen again.

Marcus Knox-Hooke, who still lives in Tottenham, North London, attacked a police car on 6 August 2011, after waiting with a crowd of hundreds outside Tottenham Police Station.

He and the group were demanding answers about the death of his close friend Mark Duggan, who was shot by the police.

It started a chain of events that saw rioting and looting spread around English cities, killing five people, with 16 members of the public and 186 police officers injured.

The overall cost in policing and compensation is estimated at more than £300m.

Now Knox-Hooke, one of the stars of a new film The Hard Stop that explores the root causes of anger and alienation in the community at the centre of the riots, says those feelings are as prevalent as ever.

"It's not something I'll stand by, not in the sense that 'Yeah I started the riots and I'll celebrate that'," said Knox-Hooke. "But at the end of the day they shot Mark and my fight was towards the police. The riots could happen again. If you oppress a people for too long, eventually they'll want to stand up to you. Because they look at it like, 'We ain't got nothing to lose'."

Knox-Hooke was sent to jail for his role in the riots, and says he is now trying to turn his life, and opportunities for others in his Tottenham community, around. 

Since the riots there has been an increase in investment in Tottenham, with large-scale development projects and plans for £1bn of investment in the area over the next nine years.

Nationwide, the Government has tied plans to demolish and regenerate so-called "sink estates" to preventing future riots, claiming three quarters of those convicted for their role in violence and looting came from post-war council estates. 

Some businesses destroyed in the violence have been rebuilt, including Reeves furniture store in Croydon, a 150-year-old building and generations-old family business which was burned so badly in the riots that it later had to be demolished.

Trevor Reeves, speaking from the current furniture showroom in an 18th century building opposite the old site, said: "What's been lost? Many thousands of square feet of retail site, storage areas - which we didn't realise how useful they were - the community has lost as an icon. We've been here for five generations, people who've been in Croydon. They've had something taken away from them, their iconic building they walk past. But there has now been a lot of gain as well. We still have this building, and we are now a leaner business, with more of an online presence."

The police say they welcome investment in areas affected by the riots, and that they are working to build stronger relationships.

"To see that burning bus, to see crowds, to see officers who were fearful, it was a completely disturbing image, a disturbing time," said Commander Mak Chishty, the Met's hate crime lead, who was area commander for north London during the 2011 riots.

"But that also brought an equal amount of determination that cannot happen again. We are going to build relationships and make sure prosperity comes to those areas. There has been investment, stronger partnerships, a whole range of activities that take place."