In light of what has happened over the past week or so, we round off our discussions with Live Magazine's youth editorial team by speaking to their music editor Robbie Wojciechowski. In covering various issues surrouding the riots we've managed to gain insightful and important perspectives from the demographic who are crying out to be heard.
Dazed Digital: What were your initial feelings when it became apparent that youths were taking to the streets in reaction to what happened in Tottenham?
Robbie Wojciechowski: I'd just come back from Big Chill Festival ready to relax down and it struck me by complete surprise. By seeing all this rage and violence my feelings were mixed with bewilderment and fear. I think alot of people were scared, not understanding how this happened, not knowing what was going to happen and if it would directly affect me.
DD: Where do you think is the main problem in all this?
Robbie Wojciechowski: I don’t think there can be one sole reason to put down as the cause, there is a deep context to this and we saw it long before the riots last week. For instance we saw indications of the frustration youths feel in society when the government put massive cuts upon education 8 months ago. I remember saying to a fellow journalist at the time of the student protests that, if something isn’t done to amend this we’re going to witness bigger disruptions to society in the future.
I think that one of the main problems is the government and politicians negligence towards society’s youth. They seem to me to have a lack of understanding. And It's resulted in a breakdown of relations making young people feel hostile towards others due to them feeling pessimistic about their own futures. Their reaction felt like a chance to get their voices heard but I can't help but also feel it was a clear cry out for help.
In no way do I condone what happened, but I can see how things rose to the state we’re in now and it lies beneath a number of issues. The terrible element of this however, was the role played by opportunistic thieves. There wasn’t any reason to smash up shop windows and loot for trainers, jeans and televisions. I don’t think that aspect can relate to any frustration caused by government cuts, police hostility or youth unemployment; it was merely an expression of opportune anarchy.
DD: What did you make of the police response?
Robbie Wojciechowski: In many ways I commend the job they did. They had to face hundreds and hundreds of angry mobs intent of causing violence, out-manned and out of place. Their response was cautious yet appropriate and I think they did as much as they possibly could. What those in power don’t comprehend was the incredible task on hand to restrict, stop and quell a spontaneous attack that caught London, and in respects the UK by complete surprise. I think it's the chief comissioners and those with higher roles in the Met that distrupted the situation, their intervention seemed only to offer menial comfort to those affected, but led to only further exasperate the situation.
DD: David Cameron has recently declared a ‘War on gang-culture’ – Do you think this is the correct approach?
Robbie Wojciechowski: Gang-culture is not as straightforward as it sounds. It is not one particular force standing in the way of David Cameron’s big society, it is almost inconceivable amidst the hidden cracks of communities where many flee to because in some ways it offers more to them than the society we live in can. I don’t like to say blame should be put on the families and mothers of the youths who were rioting or looting because I honestly believe every mother looks for the best out of their children. It is not their fault that their children feel aggressive feelings towards rules, which are getting them, as they feel, nowhere.
DD: How will the youths in society react if they feel they are continually marginalised?
Robbie Wojciechowski: If things continue the way they have been for the past 8 months or so (perhaps even longer) then we are going to see bigger protests, more violent riots and a far worse outcome. What we have seen should be a warning that issues surrounding the youth in our society must be addressed. I come from Lewisham and I see the resentment towards the authoritative elements in society, to me it is a huge cry out for help, and that is what the government should see.