Petrol bombs and pink socks

10 Aug

It has been amazing what a difference 24 hours make, Sunday night having a wonderful pampering time at Hotel Endsleigh in Devon and last night being practically under siege in West Croydon. We were hearing on our drive back from Devon about the escalating violence in South London, but nothing could have prepared us for what we found as we turned the final turn for our drive…a gang of five girls carrying assorted sticks on their way to the centre of town. It just looked like the situation was getting critical. We swiftly went into the flat trying to get away from the escalating traffic on the pavement outside. In less than 20 minutes we saw youngsters going past with their looted goods, from guitars to drinks to bags of clothes and trainers. Soon after acrid smoke could be seen billowing from nearby…we confirmed it later as a nearby row of shops burning to the ground. We looked out the window with anxiety and tried to monitor the movements of the mob outside without attracting too much attention. And that’s when the situation took a turn for the worst.

I noticed a guy in a white hooded top moving about suspiciously behind the fence of our neighbours and as he went near the bins, I quickly ran to the back window thinking that he was about to set the bins on fire, opened the window and screamed out to the guy to go away. He quickly returned back to front and I was convinced that he had done his deed and hysterically ran to the bathroom and emptied our mopping bucket and tried to fill it with water in order to go down there and try to extinguish the fire. While the water was filling the bucket I saw a small fire at the front and not the bins at all…then it all came together this piece of scum had placed a petrol bomb behind the wall of their fencing and had ran away! I ran out as quickly as I could and approached the container that seemed to be about 10 litres or so. A neighbour screamed at me not to go near as it would blow, but approached regardless as this was my only chance. Poured the water on the fuse and it thankfully went off which was a huge relief for everyone present. The neighbour was on the phone trying to contact the owners to let them know what was going on and trying to calm me down and to congratulate me for extinguishing it. That was one of those surreal moments in one’s life that you think have never happened. Screaming at an arsonist and extinguishing a petrol bomb could have never ever occur in my mind that would be the conclusion on a lovely long weekend away in Devon! But it did.

What was really positive was that almost every neighbour was out in the street trying to show the mob that we were there ready to be counted. It was amazing that it took this kind of outrage to makes us come together and even to meet each other for the first time. A shocking indictment of life in a big city.

Unfortunately for all of us the guy in the white hoodie came back about half an hour later to check out if his lovely present to us had gone off and caused chaos…he calmly picked up the container and tore it on the steps of the building and set it on fire once more. Some of the people across the road looked on but were no springing into action. Another neighbour used some leftover water from my buckets and I brought down a couple more and he managed to extinguish the fire for the second time without too much damage. The gang of youths looked on and approached another neighbour and told him to go inside as they would come back to burn the place down. A situation so menacing and truly disquieting that made me both cry in frustration and shake with rage at this outrage. For the looters and random thugs to attack shops and to steal cameras and mobile phones is one thing but totally another level is to put residents and their lives in danger by trying to torch a building.

All of us could not believe seeing hundreds of youngsters walk past calmly with such swagger and poise carrying their loot,which varied from bicycles to clothes and toys. They clearly were confident none of us would challenge them and of course the Police did very little to stop them from leaving the centre of town. Both the fire brigade and the Police did not materialise on the night despite our desperate calls to report a petrol bomb! To call it a let down would be the understatement of the century. We were all in disbelief that were left on our own to defend our properties and the street with no help from the authorities. Thank goodness a lot of neighbours stayed out till 3am despite the threats from the gang and the random looters going past in stolen cars. One neighbour saw a driver being dragged out of his car and his car stolen nearby.

During all this,  the police did close London Road and let us be the main getaway and assembly point for all this scum. It was a situation so volatile and scary that only the support from neighbour to neighbour made it bearable. We had kids trying to remove the security tags from bicycles they had just robbed in front of us and a couple of girls trying to offer as a bottle of wine they stole from Tesco…need I say more?

Staying up all night to look out for any return by the gang was emotionally and physically exhausting. The Police only made an appearance around 12 hours after the problems on our street started. Thanks guys, it was really helpful!

All I can say after this awful experience is that this group of youths that think blind violence and thieving is a valid life choice has to be put right. Their parents have clearly failed to teach them any values or to make them feel part of society on the whole. This mob mentality is a huge worry for the future of this city and regrettably , if I rented my flat I would do my best to relocate as soon as possible. But since I have done the decent thing and bought a place I now have to live through these kind of outrages and trying to stay positive. At least I can claim to have stopped a petrol bomb from going off in my hot pink socks (had not time to put shoes on). Also hope the community spirit will last long after this current outrage has long been forgotten. We came together through this difficult time and played our role in defending our properties against the mob. Additionally it was great receiving a lot of support from Twitter followers, which was really sweet and galvanizing.

Apologies about the rambling nature of this post but it was the only way for me to describe such a night of outrage and ultimately helplessness.

I sent a number of tweets during the evening describing the situation, see a selection:

The Guardian has a list of all verified incidents from around the UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/aug/09/uk-riots-incident-listed-mapped

Advertisements

3 Responses to “Petrol bombs and pink socks”

  1. Definitely the Opera 10 August 2011 at 3:57 am #

    Wow. Wow. Wow. And residential building!? Wow.

    But I think the pink socks must have provided an extra infusion of bravery, don’t you think? If they aren’t, they should be acknowledged as a legit superhero outfit accessory.

    Good to hear London was quieter tonight.

  2. thả diều 11 August 2011 at 3:09 am #

    wow, i admire your courage and super quick thinking! hope things are improving. we’re sitting here in our quiet office an ocean away, scratching our head pondering what is happening to the world’s youth…

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: