Last weekend, riots broke out in Lambeth, London when a rave was shut down by police, and frankly, I’m completely flabbergasted. The thing is, I have built up a pretty healthy cynicism over the years, but when ‘ravers’ allegedly start throwing petrol bombs at police after an illegal rave is broken up and the local area is torn to bits in a riot, my cynicism turns to disbelief. Disbelief in society, in human beings, in everything.
Why the fuck would any normal person in their right mind think to themselves, as they recite their going out the door mantra – “keys, wallet, phone, petrol bomb?!!” Seriously, who? The scenes early this weekend remind me of the poll tax riots and the changes to the Criminal Justice Act in 1994 when ne’er do well, soap dodging dog on a string anarchists incited a series of violent disturbances. None of which did anything positive for the dance music scene or overturned the aforementioned bills.
Before you say, I know the Poll Tax was replaced by the Council Tax after Thatcher resigned, and John Major appointed Michael Hesiltine as Environmental Secretary, who swiftly made the changes (shame he didn’t beat Maggie, but there you go). But seeing as how V.A.T. rose by 2.5% at the same time, it made little difference to the majority of the country. To quote Shakespeare, “…a rose by any other name, is still a rose.” Or in this case, a big prickly thistle. The Criminal Justice Bill (1994) was an amendment to an already existing act of Parliament, and has had many amendments since. Its scope even covers Ireland, and Canada, and if you remember, it was Section 63 that was the cause of contention: gatherings of 11 (now changed to 20) persons at which amplified music is played to the annoyance of local residents.
The video shows a typical news report from the 90s, but what I found interesting was the comments by the steward ” …80/90 % of the people on this square are peaceful demonstrators. All the people down this side [he points] were just going against the police, nothing to do with the poll tax, just attacking the police.” And given the last weekends events, this hasn’t changed in 25 years. There’s always been agitators who rage against the machine. People who’s sole purpose in life is to raise awareness and motivate a gang of people to take action, but not always with violence (Thanks Ghandi/Martin Luther King etc, without your influence life as we know it maybe very different). And then there are those who just want to fight and hurt people.
“It’s inevitable that the right wing press, which is nearly all the press, will try to inflate the incident to ridiculous proportions. I’m not sure who is worse, the kids resorting to violence or those who will try to profit from it.” – Tim Sheridan
Dance music’s birth was in itself an act of defiance against the political landscape of the late 1980s. An all consuming and peaceful global youth movement, whose effects are still being felt today. Illegal raves were gatherings for like minded souls to share time and space dancing under the stars. Non violence was at its core, and for some, it was the catalyst for the reduction of football hooliganism in the UK. Those hooligans still exist in today’s society, still organise pitched battles with rival gangs and still influence young kids at a rave into violence through hysteria.
In press statements issued in the aftermath of the events, Met Police confirmed that late on Saturday, 31 October, officers were in attendance at a disused building in Whitgift Street, SE1 where an unlicensed music event was taking place. Upon arrival, the officers were confronted by a large number of revellers who became increasingly violent and began to throw missiles in their direction. Fourteen police officers received minor injuries and were treated at the scene. Eight people were arrested on the night and a full criminal investigation has now been launched the by Met.Police, headed by Detective Chief Inspector Andy Barnes, investigating the disorder have now made 13 arrests as of Wednesday 4th November.
“These arrests show the Met’s determination to bring all those involved to justice and the full post event investigation continues.Further arrests are expected and we continue appeal to the public to identify those involved.” – DCI Andy Barnes
Anyone who recognises the individuals pictured or has any information is asked to contact the Public Order Investigation Unit on 020 8246 0076 or email them at: IDsought@met.police.uk quoting the reference on the pictures here and here. To remain anonymous please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Trouble is, the way the mainstream media react to rave culture means that this minority of trouble makers will inevitably mean we all get tarred with the same brush. They already think we are a bunch of drug addled, lay about, tax dodging charlatans, add in rioting, and the whole scene gets set back 20 years. I’ve been to plenty of illegal raves, and the one rule all participants observe is peaceful co-operation. When the police do arrive. And they will arrive, the trick is to accept responsibility, pack your gear up and move on. After all, you are breaking the law. Police over the years have come to take a different stance with revelers at raves. Its one of tolerance and to some extent, understanding. Ravers, true ravers, understand this and don’t take the piss, which is why this riot came as such a shock.
“It was mad – and it was maddening. I’ve just been going around with Syrian refugees to find a little boy and I never felt under threat. But here I was in my own house, scared because outside someone was sat on the roof of my car.” – BBC reporter and north Lambeth resident John Sweeney on the BBC news website.
So lets move onto the promoters – Scum Tek. As one commentator wrote on the Decoded Mag FB wall, if you call an illegal rave ‘Scumoween’ stick it in Lambeth and expect to not attract the dregs of London, you’re a little more than naive. Despite the promoters pleas mid week to “Stay peaceful, stay calm” they wrote on their wall on the day (and after the police had arrived to shut it down) “Keep coming” and “Don’t give up“. If that’s not mixed messages, then I’m a sheep dog! In fairness to them though, they have now written a very comprehensive statement distancing themselves from the trouble makers saying,
“Whenever you attend a party, no matter where you are or what the situation, never allow the things we saw the other night to happen again, dont allow yourself to be caught up in mob mentality. Stop it if you see it, remind them that their voice is much more powerful than the image of them throwing objects. Those that took things too far…. you have caused all who attended to be tarred with the same brush, so many people who brought good energy, who caused at best a noise nuisance are now affiliated with the madness outside.” – Scum Tek
Meanwhile at Severn Beach in the West Country, another illegal rave had been broken up at 11am Sunday morning, after repeated calls from local residents. No trouble, no violence. Everyone left quietly. That’s my experience of illegal raves, the ones I’ve DJed at and the ones I’ve been a punter. The rules are the rules. You bend them as far as you can, and then when the Old Bill show up its time to stop.
Its been interesting reading the comments of some of the younger people on my news feed. Full of fire and self entitlement, they rage against the authorities from the safety and anonymity of their home computers. “Fucking pigs this” and “I would’ve done that“… totally missing the point of dance music completely. Well, on the bright side, and after a satisfying cull, I don’t have to read that narrow-minded drivel anymore.
“The UK has legislated against nearly all forms of gathering, protest and group fun so it’s pretty hard not to be breaking the law. I can’t see what more a Conservative government can do against it’s own people, but I’m sure they’ll try. It’s a shame things like this happen and those kids made us all look bad. I just hope the abusers of power don’t use it as yet another excuse to squeeze us all til the pips squeek. ‘Cos all over the world, the rich are trying to buy up our major cities and stuff like this only helps them to close down venues and build flats no one will live in.” – Tim Sheridan
Tim’s point there really illustrates what this rant is all about. We all get judged the same. We always have. And to be fair, the current economic climate, its the last thing dance music needs. How easy has it become for the politicians to escalate these disturbances into a blanket ban on illegal raves whereby the police, already understaffed, are expected to arrest all party goers, prosecute them and offer jail time or community orders. Imagine the outcry from middle class England if this were more publicly known, they already distrust us… Indeed, its already happening for hard working NHS staff, constantly thrown under the bus for alleged bad practice and poor care. This, like the NHS, is a multi layered problem that cannot be solved by 10 pints down the pub on a Friday night putting the world to rights.
But I digress… Political awareness, fighting for your rights and standing up for yourself are all very well, but the real trick is learning which are the battles worth fighting, and which are best to walk away from. At the detriment of promoters Scum Tek, a small minority of “professional rioters” fucked us in the ass and we’re not happy about it.