Peckham Riots: Reminicences

I was staying with a friend at the time in Peckham, about five minutes walk from the train station.

We were ain an internet cafe where they watching the  BBC Live News about the riots. We were on edge as it looked like it was going to spread, and it did.

It all happened quite quickly within about twenty minutes from the broadcast.  Initially we saw about thirty people of all ages running in Peckham High Street and  went outside the cafe to see what was happening. The fear of the faces was something I would always remember. It reminded me of that famous Vietnam War photo. Peckham is such a relaxed, friendly place generally so all this stuff going was all surreal.

People were shouting that some  youths had burned a nearby car and ‘something was happening around Morrisons’, a five minute walk away.  There were no police about whatsover. We were reliant on chinese whispers. It was all getting a bit close, so we warned the guy in the internet cafe what we had heard and he closed the shop. I think he was really pleased that we told us, otherwise they could have smashed his computers. and wrecked his business, they didn’t care.

We didn’t know where to run that was safe. We heard that young people were burning houses  on the news and I didn’t want to be stuck in a burning flat. I wanted to run to East Dulwich and just get away to safety. In the end, after a bit of a  ‘Mars v Venus’ dispute with my friend,  we stayed in the flat. In our living room we could hear  the BBC helicopter buzzing overhead whilst watching the news on the  TV . “God, we are making the news

Some residents of Peckham chose to watch the crowds, hide or take part in the looting. We saw parents  in their thirties who lived on our road carrying stuff that clearly had been stolen looking like the cat that had got the cream.   It was quite disgusting that some locals, and fellow neighbours, and women too,  would have looted their own shops,  places they would shop regularly at. Our friendly, Peckham streets, just went ‘rogue’ – it was just so weird.

I remember feeling very annoyed at the stupidity of some people  that so many of them actually wanted to join in this criminal protest.  There was just no point even speaking to these people, they were totally off their heads, clearly thinking that what they were doing ‘was the right thing to do because everyone else seemed to doing it’. Most people  I expect didn’t even know know what it was about. There were no placards too.Disorganised mayhem. It was back to that ‘Group Think’ mentality again. No self responsibility.

Afterwards there was the infamous Peckham clear up. We  also took part in the Peckham Post It campaign which was good, but an apology from the yobs that took part in the crimes would have been good too.

I remember having this ‘middle class problem’ after the riots when I noticed that the lingerie shop, that I always liked, was set on fire. It also symbolised how pathetic the riots were and  that they didn’t achieve anything at all.

I remember how quiet it was the next day…. as if all the thieves and arsonists were having a good old lie in, thinking they would never be caught…. but fortunately there was a massive police campaign to catch them, and many were caught fairly easily by numerous CCTV coverage and call for witnesses.