Police vans race up and down the road in front of the magistrates court in the borough of Islington as officers continue to arrest hundreds of suspects.
Many of them are being brought to this courthouse so many that the judges sat through the night last night and will again tonight just to process all of them. This is the first glimpse of the people in custody who stand accused of burning buildings and cars, looting shops and assaulting those who got in their way.
Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron stated the obvious as he vowed to fight back.
“There are pockets of our society that are not just broken, but frankly sick,” Cameron said. “When we see children as young as 12 and 13 looting and laughing , when we see the disgusting sight of an injured young man with people pretending to help him while they are robbing him, it is clear there are things that are badly wrong in our society.”
There was evidence of that on the courthouse steps Wednesday. A distraught mother yelled at photographers as they took pictures of her 11-year-old son.
He had just pled guilty to looting after spending a night in custody. His slight frame was just visible as he sat in the dock.
The boy admitted to stealing a $75 garbage bin from a department store after the windows had been smashed by others. It happened late on Monday night as the violence spread across London.Outside the courthouse, a 17-year-old named Bobby leaned against a post watching the sidewalk drama unfold. Looters, he said, are losers.
“I know a few people who know people that are involved. Everyone is going to know someone that’s something to do with it,” he said.
Bobby says he has stayed away, not wanting the trouble or the criminal record. He is not in school, but he has a job in a restaurant. Bobby knows good jobs are hard to come by and he thinks that is why there’s been so much violence.
“There’s people that don’t have jobs and don’t have money and their parents don’t give them money they don’t have nothing and this is big opportunity for people, I can’t make a little bit of money here rah rah that’s the only way they look at it. It’s got nothing to do with politics, government, police. All it is people robbing shops to get a little bit of money. That’s all it is. Free stuff,” he said.
The parade of people marching through the courtrooms Wednesday revealed a diverse group.
There was a 31-year-old man who works at a primary school, a student and a convicted drug dealer.
They and others came from different ethnic backgrounds. Still, the focus remains on young people and that is why Georgina Ohoru showed up another courthouse to offer them her support.
Ohoru told reporters it’s past time to find answers for England’s dispossessed youth.
“This is war right now on our streets, this is war for our young people,” Ohoru said. “Give us a tomorrow! Give the kids a tomorrow. There is no tomorrow. You have all get a slice of the cake; you have all got good jobs. These kids will never set foot in a college or university with half of their mothers on benefits.”
For all the warnings from the Prime Minister and the police those who were out on the streets of Manchester last night seem undeterred by the threat of arrest.
“This will be my first offense, I’ve not been in trouble before, so I’m not really bothered,” said one young man who had just looted a store.
That lack of fear or concern for the future suggests that England’s courtrooms and jails may be busy for weeks to come – even as some urge the government to tackle the underlying problems that they believe led to this wave of violence.