The recent youth-led uprisings in London, that caused millions of dollars in damage and led to over a thousand people being arrested, are not just a wake-up call for Britain. The U.S. must take notice and put into place measures that would prevent such uprisings here at home.
The London uprisings began when a group of young people, upset over the death of a 29-year old Black man, killed by police officers, gathered outside a police station in London. Frustrated with high unemployment rates, a failing education system and police misconduct that seemingly goes unchecked, the protester’s tempers flared, their emotions took over and the protests quickly turned violent. The violence spreads, growing to massive proportions—citizens in the U.K., and around the world, were shocked.
While it is very easy to dismiss such uprisings and think they’d never occur here in the U.S., we must not be complacent or naïve. The same issues that drove youth in London to act out plague us here in America. Youth unemployment in the U.S. exceeds 20-percent; police misconduct is a regular occurrence throughout country and our schools fail to prepare our children for college or the job market.
What can we do here in the U.S. to prevent such uprisings? We can start by doing the exact opposite of what London Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed. Cameron proposed a tough crack down and wants to ban rioters from using social media, evict them from public housing and impose restrictions on youth.
His political opponent, Ed Miliband, suggested a different, better approach: one that would put into place social programs that aim to keep youth out of trouble, create jobs and monitor police activities. If the goal is to prevent youth from destroying themselves and their communities in anger, then an approach like Miliband’s is needed, in London and here at home.
The uprisings in the Middle East, starting with Egypt and then spreading, did not alarm Americans. We believed that, because the political and social environments in those nations are so different from ours, we’d never have to deal with such large, violent, citizen-led protests. Watching the events in London unfold should change that way of thinking, because, in so many ways, the country is a lot like ours. London showed us that the world is on edge. America must take steps now to support its people and prevent violence.
(Judge Greg Mathis is vice president of RainbowPUSH and a national board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.)