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After the fire: The recovery of London businesses following the 2011 riots

The summer of 2011 will long be remembered for the scenes of devastation and chaos that swept the nation’s capital, with rioting and looting also spreading to other metropolitan areas across the UK.

The catalyst for the events that unfolded was the police shooting of Tottenham resident Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old black man. This caused racial tensions between the police and the black community of Tottenham and North London to reach tipping point.

Four days of civil disobedience followed, causing millions of pounds worth of damage to local businesses and bringing some parts of the capital to a standstill. The legacy of the London riots continues to be felt by businesses several years on, with the path to recovery being fraught with challenges. However, the city has managed to regain its reputation as a centre for business and commercial enterprise, as well as being a safe and vibrant cultural centre that continues to draw in visitors by the millions.

It was the small business owners who were perhaps worst hit by the troubles, as they were suddenly met with huge workloads. Alongside continuing to manage their daily trade and business management, owners also had to face completing physical repairs to their property, replenishing stolen stock, as well as attempting to recuperate their losses through insurance claims.

For some, this emotional and financial toll caused massive strain, ultimately prompting the collapse of their business. Local councils and communities did attempt to offer support to the victims of the riots, but unfortunately, some businesses were ignored and had to battle to receive compensation. Overall, it was found that there was inadequate external support offered, causing businesses to become more vulnerable after the riots as opposed to facilitating their recovery.

“Sadly, It was the small business owners who were perhaps worst hit by the troubles.”

While there were failures in the government’s response to the riots, local communities displayed great activism and support in helping to rebuild and reverse the damage to businesses and communities as a whole. Hundreds of people volunteered their assistance in clean-up operations, alongside offering emotional support to those who suffered from the destruction. This local community support was hugely important to local businesses who had seen their livelihood destroyed, helping to ensure they were not left feeling isolated and alone in dealing with the regeneration of their businesses.

Following the chaos, policing and security reforms were implemented, including a new framework for resolving public disorder. The police force also strived to create a central information hub that would collect and disseminate information to ensure public order in the UK’s major cities.

More importantly, efforts were made to facilitate a better relationship between the police force and the many different communities of London. Community outreach programmes were also implemented to help prevent youth gang activity, as well as attempts to better understand the causes of public disobedience. While better policing measures are important, the best defence against widespread rioting and civil disobedience is undoubtedly fostering better cohesion and cooperation between the authorities and local communities, in order to ensure greater mutual respect throughout society.

Read more: London

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