This was the scene in Clarence Road yesterday morning, one of simultaneous despair and hope: despair, because the shop in this photo was utterly trashed by looters during last Monday's rioting; hope, because the shopkeeper - Siva, on the left - was standing outside selling newspapers, smiling through his dismay. He's been greatly heartened by the support of his customers and a fantastic fund-raising effort on his behalf. The energetic Save Siva's Shop campaign has already collected over £16,000. I noticed this morning that it had extended its reach to collection tins at Chatsworth Market. You can add your contribution here.
The vision of destruction through Siva's open shop door was one of relatively few signs I saw yesterday of what had happened at the start of the week. Early on Tuesday morning I'd watched Council workers moving swiftly to clear away the burned-out cars, sweep up the ash from refuse bins set aflame and remove the rest of the debris. When I returned close to lunchtime I was hailed in Clapton Square by a photographer colleague and soon became part of a very different crowd from the one that had participated in or observed the disorder of the night before.
This crowd comprised fellow journalists and a changing cast of local people, either being interviewed at length or chipping in as they passed by. Some engaged in their own conversations, one or two of them quite loudly from opposite sides of the street. Eavesdropping, I was struck by how few chose to attribute the thieving, confrontation and destruction to "criminality, pure and simple." They knew there was something more it than that.
Most were keen to stress a backdrop of grievance and disappointment, notably about a lack opportunities for the young arising from the boom years before the credit crunch, local regneration projects and the Olympics. One man mentioned about the impact of migrant workers on the job market. To these complaints we can add evidence of deteriorating relationships between young people and the police as issues that need to be looked at carefully as our neighbourhood, the wider borough, London and other big British cities try to diagnose the frightening explosion of disorder that followed the shooting by police of Mark Duggan in Tottenham.
Nobody sensible claims that the sort of barbarity visited on Siva in Clarence Road is vindicated by whatever precisely occurred a few miles north four days earlier, but to insist that there is no connection between them is to hide from reality. Before the violence spread from Tottenham I'd argued that similar combinations of exlosive ingredients - such as joblessness, gangs, rising crime and a growing contempt for all forms of conventional authority - exist in many parts of London and that an incident such as the Duggan shooting could only too easily ignite them, providing a pretext or an opportunity for confrontation and felony. In the event, no such catalyst was required.
I'm thankful that the trouble didn't spread up to the environs of the pond but it came close enough to demonstrate that the impact of such events travels beyond its immediate location. Shopkeepers at the Homerton end of Lower Clapton Road have described to me with incredulity the causal way that the Harris electrical goods shop was robbed. A string of police vans was encamped for a while outside Pages. Abdullah of Palm 2, his brother and sons closed early and waited fretfully outside (it later turned out that a storage space they use down the road had been burgled). The young children of friends have found it hard to sleep, knowing that something scary was going on outside. I urged my young adult sons to stay indoors.
So, what happens next? My hope is that something valuable will come out of all this. As the Siva campaign shows, people of goodwill have already rallied round. We know that the calm that has returned may be superficial and can no longer be taken for granted. There is now less excuse than ever to avert our gaze from what lurks in the shadows of our neighbourhood, where there is also so much cause for optimism. The struggle now is to ensure that its spirit prevails.