Q: Was the #riotcleanup(1) after the August 2011 riots fascism(2) in action?
1. #riotcleanup was a response to the burning and looting of small shops(3) and people’s homes(4) during riots(5) across London. Started on Twitter(6), it mobilised up to 12,000 people(7). They cleaned up local independent shops(8) to help them reopen.
2. Fascist movements venerate the state(9), are devoted to a strong leader(10), and an emphasis on militarism(11).
3. Retailers lost 30,000 trading hours(12) and damage to businesses across London cost £100 million. 48,000 businesses suffered financially as a result of the riots.
4. At least 100 homes were destroyed during the riots, mostly flats above shops(13).
5. The riots left five people dead(14), and 14 people injured, including a 25 year old Malaysian student(15) and a 75 year old lady. Ten firefighters were also injured. A 13 year old was raped during the riots.
6. The first Tweet was sent around 10.30pm on Monday night. Around a dozen events were subsequently arranged, and the hashtag was added after midnight. A number of people built websites, set up Facebook events and organised their own events under the #riotcleanup banner. On the ground, people who gathered organised themselves, without leaders.
7. It is, of course, impossible to judge the class and ethnicity(16) of all 12,000, let alone their motivations(17). It is probably that they represent a broad a spectrum of society, with diverse reasons for getting involved.
8. For every pound spent in independent shops, over 60% stays in the local economy; with larger stores, less than 40% stays local.
9. As before, it is impossible to attribute this love of the state to all 12,000 people involved in #riotcleanup.
10. #riotcleanup had no leaders, and was organised by hundreds of people, independently and without the permission of any authority. That style of organisation is anarchy(18).
11. The broom, as used by those involved in #riotleanup, is an unlikely weapon(19).
12. Many people employed in shops will be on contracts which left them with no income while their shops were closed.
13. Presumably, not lived in by particularly wealthy people. The Riot Relief campaign, an offshoot of #riotcleanup, collected donations of food, clothing, toys and household goods to help people who had lost their homes.
14. Trevor Ellis was shot, Haroon Jahan, Shahzad Ali and Abdul Musavir died in a hit and run and Richard Mannington Bowes was killed by a mob.
15. Ashraf Rossli was beaten and then robbed twice by looters emptying his rucksack.
16. One photo, used to suggest that a white middle class were clearing the streets, was subsequently found to have been cropped to remove black people.
17. It is, of course, equally impossible to say why people rioted in the first instance. There were no protest banners or flags, so it is only by an act or arrogance that a commentator can say this was an anti-capitalist(20) or anti-elitist protest.
18. Billy Bragg said “The people who spontaneously came out to help tidy up, that’s anarchy. Anarchy is people organising themselves for the common good in some way, without anyone coming round and giving them orders.”
19. Although it is used by Gandhi’s Shanti Sena (or Peace Army), who have cleaned up after riots in India, as a gesture of peace.
20. And, if it was an anti-capitalist protest, it does rather beg the questions of why were rioters so keen to take symbols of capitalism, such as branded trainers or widescreen televisions.