If anyone thought the riots were the work of boroughless scumbags working themselves across London like a rats’ invasion of the Monopoly board – wrong. Tonight I saw people I know who live here in Bow laugh and egg each other on as they took turns to dart under a wrenched open shutter into a designer clothes shop on the Roman Road called Zee & Co – and emerge, scarves around their faces, arms full of booty.
One by one – black, white, Bengali, boy, girl, most of them teenagers – they went in and out as mates laughed and cheered across the street. I followed one lad, a black boy with a barely grown striped beard in a yellow polo shirt, thinking he’d walk to a van waiting somewhere nearby.
No, nonchalantly, at about 9pm he strolled about 50ft up the road and turned left into a flat above a furniture shop. There was a Turkish bloke wearing a red cap at the door smirking as he let him in. The black boy went upstairs, dumped his loot and joined friends cheering from a first floor window. More followed him in.
These thieves live here. And so do the people watching them. Do they give a toss about the area, one where a year today the eyes of the world will be watching? No, of course not. This was their fun-filled Looting Olympics.
I watched all this in Tower Hamlets for about an hour. In that time one police van drove past. It slowed down, put on its blue lights and then sped off. What could they do? This was just one shop; along Bethnal Green Road, riot police had been deployed.
On the way back I heard these comments, one on the road where I live:
“I hear Zee’s having an open sale,” and, “I got me a load of Stoney hats, bro” [he meant Stone Island designer hats].
I saw one man emerge from the shop and run into this blue car and drive away:
The car had been overturned by outside the local Muslim Community Centre. One of the elders there said a gang of black, white and Bengali youths had done it. He said they had been after the parking permit displayed on its windscreen.
Repeat: this is less than a kilometre from the Olympic Stadium.
Mindless doesn’t begin to describe it – but what else does?