Britain’s estates are full of frustrated youth. A look inside their broken world.
On a recent night in Stockwell, an up-and-coming swath of South London, a police van prowled the streets. The neighborhood, five kilometers from Parliament and a short walk from Battersea Park, sees its Tube stop fill with young bankers at rush hour and its pubs bustle at night. But two weeks earlier its darker side had taken hold. Hooded youths took over the streets, smashing and looting at will, as the area became a picture of the chaos that swept through London during last month’s riots.
The van slowed to a stop near a scraggly patch of lawn, where a cluster of young men huddled beneath the blocks of the sprawling housing projects, or “estates,” that sit smack in the center of Stockwell. The spotlight on the van’s roof tracked toward the group, bathing them in blinding white. In unison, they turned away, and waited. The spotlight went out, and the van disappeared into the night.
“Rage,” said one of the young men, an 18-year-old with cornrows and a cold gaze. He pulled papers from his pocket to roll a spliff. “It’s everywhere. Just everything in general for the youth. How man lives. Rage is peak.”
Tensions had been running high in the Stockwell estates, and in poor areas throughout the city, since the four nights of rioting ended on Aug. 10. Some buildings in places like Peckham, another hard-hit area in South London, were still boarded up. The police reinforcements sent from across the United Kingdom remained, and the streets were full of cops, whom the kids call “feds,” though England has no FBI. Police were kicking down doors in search of pilfered riot loot, and the hated stop-and-searches were in full effect. The annual Afro-Caribbean street carnival, meanwhile, which the previous year had ended in a shower of bottles and Molotov cocktails, was set to kick off in a few days. There were whispers about more trouble to come, and authorities made plans to pump the festival with record numbers of police.Read more.