The situation this morning is absolutely terrifying. BBC News and the Guardian have live news sections that make frightening reading. The most concerning thing is that there seems that the authorities are struggling to control the situation. Now I am no expert in civilian unrest but here are my suggestions for the crisis meeting that the government are having later this morning.
It must be stressed that what is happening has NOTHING to do with protesting injustice. It has NOTHING to do with race. It has NOTHING to do with politics. It has nothing to do with cuts or poverty. These people are thieving pure and simple. It is a tiny proportion of our proud nation. Control must be restored and restored quickly and the perpetrators brought to justice.
It should be noted that of course my plan is offered as suggestions, and some aspects of my plan may not be practical or even wise. The general point is we need a more aggressive response, how we do that is down to the authorities. This would especially be true of getting the army out, alternatives might be better. I am very glad to hear today that all voluntary special constables are being asked to report for duty, and employers are being asked to release them. Statements from Cameron and the Police are very welcome and suitably robust.
Further Update (11th August) I am of course thrilled that many of my specific suggestions have proven not necessary. The general idea of a more robust police response without army involvement was the right choice by Cameron, and I am glad it seems to have worked so well. I leave these suggestions unchanged for historical integrity reasons. Some of them definitely reflected my emotional state early one morning, rather than a carefully thought through response:
1. We must declare a state of emergency and consider if it is necessary to call in the army to the streets of the UK. David Cameron should appear on the steps of number ten and state this personally. This can and should happen this morning. It is not a declaration that the police have failed, it is a measured response to protect our nation. A nationwide curfew may need to be declared for tonight since the works of darkness are performed in darkness. Each day thereafter a decision should be made as to whether a curfew is still required.
2. The rules of engagement must be immediately and publicly changed. The nation should be warned that water cannon, Tazars, tear gas and possibly (and only in extreme circumstances) even guns will be used against any group that is menacing or property, our livelihoods, and our lives. Kettling can and should be used rather than allowing gangs to roam unchecked, even driving them along a high street as business after business is destroyed.
3. RIM Blackberry must immediately and publicaly close down their BBM instant messaging service in this country. They must also turn over to police all their records so that the authors of messages that have incited to violence can be brought to justice.
4. Arrest anyone who has incited to violence on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere online (all of which are more public so easier to track than blackberry’s messages) should be rounded up and arrested. Such errant accounts should be taken down and replaced with a message that shames their owner.
5. A police website should be set up for members of the public to upload photographs and video of the looters. All existing photographs and videos of looters should be placed on this website where it is then made possible for pictures to be tagged by people who do not have to give their name. When tagged the actual name of the person itself should not be shown publically on the site but they can be marked as “1 name suggested X times” or “3 different names suggested.” Thus the community can help the police locate these people and arrest them.
6. Sensible Community leaders from all areas such as my pastor should be given opportunities to address the nation via our news channels. We need compelling voices for unity and peace to be given a channel to communicate. It is critical that politicians in particular unite and do not use this mindless violence as an opportunity to score points against each other.
7. Road blocks should be placed around key commerical areas and access to them be controlled. Photographs, and searches can be required for entry and exit.
8. Petrol stations must be immediately required not to sell petrol in cans. Lockable caps for fuel tanks should also be made available free to allow the nation to reduce access to petrol for the gangs.
9. A website should be set up for requests for help, and offers of help to be exchanged so that the community can rise and help victims of this atrocity. In the absence of a website such requests could be made through Twitter. This seems to already have begun as riot clean up is trending. Speaking personally if anyone in the Enfield area needs help I am very happy to broadcast that via my twitter feed, and I know many members of our church are happy to help in whatever way is needed.
10. A clear declaration should be made by the government of who is in charge of the ongoing security operations and how different services will be co-ordinated.
Finally I do have an 11th point. It is a point that in the not very distant past would have been top of the list for any such plan. But I know that it might not be seen very well by the authorities. Great to see then Justin Bieber make this point this morning on Twitter and to see the simple phrase “Pray for London” trending there as a result. We should call the nation to a day of prayer today. Christians, who read this post from wherever you are in the world, I do call you to PRAY not just for London but for our nation. We cannot let destructive elements destroy our society. Be under no mistake, these elements are in the minority but a very dangerous anarchy has been released. Our God has delivered our nation before and days of prayer played a part in that. Please join us in prayer.
May God deliver our nation, and use this crisis as an opportunity to call many to himself.