The Independent London Newspaper

 

Newington Green Unitarian church set to host debate on the riots

Rev Andrew Pakula

Published: September 16, 2011
by PETER GRUNER

POLITICAL figures including Diane Abbott MP and former London race equality adviser Lee Jasper, will be speaking at a conference in Islington next Tuesday (September 20) to debate the aftermath of last month’s riots.

Church minister Rev Andrew Pakula, who is organising the conference at Newington Green Unitarian church, said he was unhappy with the way the disorder was being blamed on various factions – by politicians on the left and right – without sufficient analysis of the causes.

Other speakers will include: Owen Jones, author of Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, who is a former trade union official; Leon Fearon, a 19-year-old Londoner who recently tackled London Mayor Boris Johnson live on Sky News over the ongoing cuts to the city’s youth services; and Merlin Emanuel, nephew of Smiley Culture, the reggae singer who died during a police raid.

Rev Pakula said: “The riots were a wake-up call. They are symptomatic of the malaise which has been festering beneath the apparent successful surface of our society.”

He said the church was close to Tottenham and Hackney where the riots first erupted and that there had been a number of incidents close by, including some looting in Essex Road.

“People do this because they feel they have nothing to lose,” said Rev Pakula. “They wouldn’t riot if they felt they had a stake in society.” He said that while the rioters committed crimes they should not be treated as criminals. “To call them criminals is suggesting they are intrin­sically bad,” said Rev Pakula. “I don’t believe that. The important thing now is how we stop this happening again.”

He said he hoped the conference would provide ideas about ways of helping young rioters to reconnect with society.

“Mentoring is a helpful tool,” Rev Pakula added. “It can give ­people hope and provide a good role model.”

Each speaker will present a short account of their opinions and what they believe might help improve the problems in society. This will be followed by a question and answer session from the audience before breaking into smaller groups for more focused discussion.

Tuesday’s debate will take place at Newington Green Unitarian church from 1-3pm.

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