I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how it felt during the riots in England in 2011 when, as the violence, burning and looting spread across London and to other cities, the police stopped responding. You could call 999 and say “There’s a mob outside my house and they’re destroying stuff.” and nothing would happen. It felt really scary. The people that are supposed to protect the population just decided not to. It was suddenly apparent how fragile is the line between order and disorder, safety and danger.
I remember, too, a ‘Grants not loans’ march I went on as a student in 1988. We were kettled by police who then surged into the crowd on horseback. We had no where to escape to, because there were thousands of us and buildings in the way. I remember seeing a mounted police woman beating people with a baton, her face distorted with hate. I remember shouting “We can’t go anywhere! People are being trampled!” And they kept coming at us. It felt really scary. The people that are supposed to protect the population were deliberately trying to hurt us. It profoundly rocked my middle class view of the world. It was a shocking experience.
No safety net. Being under attack from the people that are supposed to protect you. Two short-lived experiences that disrupted my normality for a while. I wonder if they offer a glimpse of a tiny fraction of what it must feel like to be a black person in America.