Why I organised a Lewisham riot clean up

16 Aug

 The Great british public wave their flags and sing the national anthem during an exciting world cup football match.

Many feel proud to be British when our good troops leave for war in Afghanistan.

Many Brits celebrated the long extended weekend of the Royal wedding by getting drunk and partying their arse off at one of the many street parties.

The above are all prime examples of how Brits come together to celebrate and display their British roots.

 This was a nation that came together when the horrific scenes of flying debris and screaming, hysterical London commuters hit our television screens on the 07/07/2005. Yes, a time where most descended into a nation of morning when the life’s of 52 people were so crawly claimed by the London terrorist attack that Simultaneously injured another 700 people in the explosions on three London underground trains and one London Double Decker bus.

 We, were a nation that stood united, these in our society didn’t choose to go looting for top of the range computer games and trainers. Plasma TVs remained safely fixed upon the walls in which they belonged.

A heart-breaking, soul-destroying turn of events that left our nation and the rest of the world in bits is an example of how the British come together in times of dismay.

 Yet, here we are that very same nation, with very different morals.

 Our country was put on alert for a possible terrorist attack, we were deemed, high risk!

 We would need to see action, plans brought to the table so to speak! Yet, what was about to commence was a very different turn of events! With the man who has been grunted the power to run our country indulging on a holiday, to which I’m purely guessing was some place hot, expensive and free from suspected terrorist alerts, and that of our lovely London mayor on the missing too (another lucky man on holiday, maybe he joined the PM) I for one couldn’t even contemplate taking such a threat seriously, how could I if the PM was sunning himself aboard?

Well, given our history, I assumed that the great British public would come together as one, as they had always done so! We would get each-other through it, what ever happened.

  Then something happen… Buildings were douched in petrol or alcohol, quickly converted into an inferno of fierce red flames that took their grip letting of thick black smoke that rose into the skies of London causing a fog of darkness! Cars were burnt on the roadside, high street shop windows broken, debris covering the streets like a huge blanket.

Though this wasn’t a terror attack, this was something else all together! The London riots were a result of our own people, young and old, black and white. Yes, there may have been reasons for the Tottenham riots but we were now seeing behaviours of such disgust for no other reasons than pure yobbery and greed. Peoples homes, business and vehicles set a blaze for what? What did it prove,what was gained from it? Many parts of the country now display an array of boards that replace windows, some were replaced that same day, others remain the same as the cost for replacements can’t be met.

I try to teach my children never to steal, yet they have now been showed that despite it being such a bad thing to engage in, many will steal and in such a violent and disrespectful way! It just doesn’t help when the police can be seen watching but not intervening through no fault of their own but those who gave such instructions . The supermarket across the road from our house was being looted from 10.pm till 6. am  in the morning and this caused all three children to get very little sleep, due to not only the noise but the sheer fear of what was happening around them.

 Such behaviours displayed by rioters are scary, many young children felt fear as the riots went full swing, yet there are some children that didn’t feel this way as some as young as 11 if not younger, were reported to be rioting and looting, some seen in the papers with supermarket baskets hung from the handle bars of their little BMX bikes. Little man didn’t cope well with the horror that was unfolding on our tv sets and outside our very door. His anxiety levels are already high and this just added to it. I tried to keep him from hearing too much, in-order to protect him, however as his mother I knew I couldn’t keep him from hearing the horrors that are taking place in the world he lives in! He sees things on the TV and can easily get hold of a newspaper. He maybe on the spectrum but he has Aspergers and is pretty intelligent but sadly highly anxious.

My Little man also has a range of sensory processing difficulties. He can’t drowned out background noise like some can, certain sounds can interfere with his mental well-being, causing him stress and even pain. During  day three of the riots that were taking place in south London Lewisham, as they were many other areas across the country, we saw our local supermarket being looted throughout the duration of the night. Little man didn’t only have difficulties disconnecting his mind from the fears of the events he had seen or read about, but worse was his inability to filter out certain sounds so when the supermarket was looted the noise that was caused by the store security alarm drove him absolutely insane to the point of angry over exhausted sobs.

 I spent most of the early hours venting my anger on Twitter, (followers were great support, managing to keep me from the blink of madness). It was while on Twitter I noticed the Twitter hash tag, ‘#riotcleanup’ I noticed that my area was lacking support so I decided to struck up some kind of group made up of volunteers for a Lewisham cleanup. I used the hash tag #lewishamriotcleanup and set of on a mini mission all alone.

 To be 100% honest I don’t know what I was expecting to come of it. In a way I didn’t expect anybody to listen to me to the degree that they did. I really did think, deep down that I’d be lucky to get a few re-tweets maybe the whole of the Local community were asleep in bed, (well, those not rioting and looting) given it was at least 3am when I first embanked on the riot clean up campaign. Yet, I should have known better that myself and little man would not be the only ones being kept awake by shouting, fighting, banging, smashing glass or even that of annoying store alarms that were set of throughout the entire night, ” Oh yes, the alarm was going off from 10 p.m. till around 6.30 am when the greedy takers had stopped taking, correction… I mean stealing!

 I put my iPhone on the bedside table and tried to clam the little man down who was now sobbing on my pillows (all three children were in my bed) I then sat by the bedroom window watching the looters using trolleys to carry their “freebies” The looters no longer ran as they had done some six hours earlier, they now strolled  taking their time! It looked as through it was a normal thing to do, anyone would think these guys were shopping at a 24hr supermarket, not robbing one that closed at 9.pm the night before. With not a police officer In sight except for the odd blue light driving right past the free for all, you can almost understand why some went back for seconds and thirds having filled their get away cars to the very rim.

 London and beyond was now becoming a burning inferno of terror. With the Government cutting back police the country didn’t stand a hope in hell, nor did the policemen that I saw being kicked and punched all over the papers on Tuesday morning.

 It was crazy when I re-checked my twitter stream, what had happened during the half an hour period of me being away was a little surreal. I had loads of new followers who were now also using the tag #lewishamriotcleanup. With many agreeing to meet with me at the Lewisham shopping centre at 9.am.

 The whole idea behind the cleanup was based on more than “Cleaning” My mother works for the council so I knew most had started early on a mission to clean the streets! My mission was to help those business who would show up at work in a few hours time to find the devastating mess and bill left by rioters and looters. Even if it meant sweeping glass, making tea, or just showing support, while showing others that we’re not all bad eggs, some of use stayed in our houses choosing not to rob our local high street shops. This went for the bigger companies too, (through we knew that it was the smaller retailers who would suffer most) that’s why we targeted lots of support to those smaller independent business.

 I decided to start getting ready for my mission but before I did I went through the many messages and mentions on my Twitter to establish if I would actually be doing this alone, despite  the support forming in cyberspace I wondered if when it came to it, would anyone show up at 9.am? It was only then that I saw a message from BBCs London the breakfast show requesting a live radio interview 15 minutes before my planed meet up. My heart was beating at a rate so fast I felt it in my feet, I said yes only to hold the nerves in the Pit of my stomach for the next few hours. Everything kept moving on at a rate that was hard to keep up with, (highlighting the power of social media in a good way). Next thing I knew I was dressed, the children’s father arrived to look after the children (all except little man who begged to come and help) We both set off towards Lewisham town centre “which had seen some awful riots these past few nights and days, along with the surrounding areas such as Lee and Catford.” It was in the taxi I did my live interview for BBC radio which luckily went swimmingly. Once out the taxi I noticed no one except on lady looking lost. This was our first fellow riot clean up volunteer. The group grew to around twenty, others came to wish us luck! I was more than shocked to discover a BBC news reporter was there who interviewed both myself and little man and some of the others. A member of the Lewisham refuge team came to inform us that all was in hand and we were not needed! I wanted to work with the council not against. We spit up and set off in small groups towards Catford High Street. I met fellow volunteers along the way and also discovered that more had turned up outside the shopping centre and would now set upon the mission within different areas of the borough. My small group had the pleasure of having the BBC reporter and later camera crew by our side the whole time, though this felt a little crazy. I did a good few interviews with her which were aired on the BBC London news at 6.30 that same evening. The report was quite a long report that also saw little man being interviewed. The reporter herself was lovely and really supportive off what we were doing making it that much easier. I also done a string of online and radio interviews throughout the day via my mobile phone, Yes, I did really say, “Lewisham was cleaner then usual”  it was true and just needed to be said  I tweeted what and were we were going and meet some fellow tweeters along the way.

A shop window in Catford high street following riots and looting

The Mess left by looters in Catford high street

 Little man felt quite angry at the whole riot business, especially as his beloved London buses had been targeted (except this time it wasn’t a terrorist attack)

Google images London bus ablaze in Croydon South London

A few of the Lewisham Riot Clean up crew

 One of the fellow clean up crew was a lovely young girl of 16 years who proved that not all youths are looting JD spots, some are actually cleaning it up. Yes, right at the end of the day we discovered the huge amount of smashed up glass that had been left dangerously over the pavement in front of the shop. I was so proud of little man and by taking him out there with me I hoped to show him that there was still good people in the world, and I think I achieved that.

Little Man outside JD sports with a fellow Lewisham Riot Clean up member.

5 Responses to “Why I organised a Lewisham riot clean up”

  1. Katie Hill August 23, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    Lewisham are lucky to have you Claire.

  2. clairelouise82 August 18, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Thanks for the lovely comment Zoe. I’ve still got holiday envy lol, wanna get me in your suitcase🙂 Claire.xxx

  3. Zoe Hankey August 16, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

    I love this one & wish more people had the same morals as you x


  1. It’s the little steps that count the most « A boy with Asperger's - July 12, 2012

    […] mentioned I’m forever praising his efforts. Little man helping me organise and take part in a riot cleanup for our local area. He featured in a BBC news report as a result and the whole family and beyond […]

  2. The Real Crisis, We Stopped Choosing Wisdom. | US - August 16, 2011

    […] Why I organised a Lewisham riot clean up (aspergersinfo.wordpress.com) […]

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