What follows is an eyewitness account of the tumultuous events in Manchester last night Tuesday August 9th, 2011. It is in the best traditions of citizen journalism following in the footsteps of George Orwell.
As I was travelling into Manchester for a CND-organised event for Nagasaki Day I had my first inkling of trouble when I noticed from the 36 bus a massive police presence in Salford Precinct. Clearly something major had kicked off there in terms of social conflict. The bus continued as far as the Salford Crescent Pub and then stopped. Passengers were given the choice of returning from whence they came or making alternative arrangements to get into Manchester. We were told by the driver that there was "rioting" in the City Centre. I attended the 7 p.m. meeting at the Friends Meeting House, Mount Street which was ended prematurely on police advice.
I then headed down Cross Street towards Victoria train station. There were groups of young people throughout the area and clear evidence of shop fronts having been smashed in.
Surprisingly, there was little evidence of a massive police presence except on Market Street. Every so often, one witnessed large groups of young people racing around the City Centre, witnessed by many spectators taking pictures on their mobiles. Occasionally, one heard the sound of police or fire-engine sirens, although no ambulances.
I stayed in the City Centre for about an hour and felt no threat to my person at all. The atmosphere was electric and one can fully understand why many youngsters felt a sense of excitement and even exhilaration as the "liberation" of goods from the shops proceeded. One commentator subsequently used the phrase "acquisitive entitlement" to explain this phenomenon.
It was impossible to get a bus back to Swinton so I waited at the train station for the 9.10 p.m. but this was cancelled due to the driver refusing to take it out apparently worried about his car parked nearby. I eventually got home and watched the news coverage on TV. The knee jerk reaction of leading Councillors and the Police completely failed to comprehend what the motivation and causes of this unprecedented social unrest were.
Law and order solutions involving robust policing (including water cannon and plastic bullets) will only escalate the problem. The social and economic deprivation occasioned by draconian attacks on social fabric and public provision by the Tory-Lib Dem Government aided and abetted by a supine opposition offer very little hope that "normality" can be restored to the streets quickly.
One last subversive thought entered my head last night the aphorism of the French anarchist Pierre Joseph Proudhon "All Property is Theft".