BARTON Street resident Rich Leigh, witnessed the disorder firsthand last night.
Here he gives his account of the night:
Like many of you, I was woken by the sound of a helicopter circling overhead this morning. Actually, that’s not strictly true – I was woken by my ten week old son, who, over the sound of his monitor, was seemingly distraught at having been awake for more than a few moments without his night-time bottle somehow being instantaneously placed in his mouth. Then I heard the helicopter – a sound that when you hear it, you wonder how you ever managed to sleep through.
With the dual purpose of rushing downstairs to sort the bottle in the small hours and also ascertaining whether or not Gloucester had indeed become victim to the thuggery we’ve seen in the last few days across the UK, I was pretty alert, pretty quickly.
A cacophony of sounds outside the house, including the voices of an assembling group of riot gear-adorned police officers, shouting and said helicopter provided the soundtrack for what I saw as I looked out of my Barton Street window.
With the night feed done and a quick peer through the crack of my daughter’s bedroom door, I went back to window-watching.
As anybody will tell you, Mayfair Barton Street is not. My fiancée and I bought the house in the midst of the recession, having previously lived in an upstairs flat on High Street opposite the Co-op, where we were regularly witness to drunken skirmishes and general unrest. Multiple police drug raids occurred in the street in the short year and a bit we lived there. When considering the Barton Street house, we were concerned about the proximity to the city centre – and in particular, Eastgate Street. Having lived in the area for a few years, we were aware of the reputation of the area as one with high crime rates, but the opportunity to gain a footing on the property ladder was compelling. Being a few hundred metres from the main Barton Street stretch of shops, though, beyond the now-disused and boarded up India House building, we convinced ourselves that the majority of crime would be closer to town and we would remain on the periphery of it all.
One daylight burglary later – our house is right on the main road, so how the burglar gained entry without arousing attention is anybody’s guess – our concerns were proven warranted. One neighbour has had his taxi windows smashed as many as five times, three of these times being on consecutive evenings after he’d paid to have them fixed each time.
The picture I’m trying to paint is that, despite the fact every area has its problems; it certainly didn’t surprise me to find that the area was one of few in Gloucester in which both local shops and the police were attacked last night.
Still looking from my window, trying to gauge the severity of any damage within view, I saw a small group of what looked like youths pass, hoods up, hidden by the veil of darkness. Having followed much of the coverage of the riots, watching the needless and spontaneous destruction of buildings, it wasn’t a giant leap to consider that my house, prominent in that it’s one of two on a street corner, could be subjected to harm. Thoughts instantly whir around your head – should I arm to protect in the event of it? Will this, like the burglary, become one of those unfortunate memories you work so hard to prevent your children from having to have? Every parent worries about their families’ welfare at the best of times. When thugs, who wantonly and destructively attack the livelihoods of local people, are at play, this increases ten-fold.
The rioting is a collection of thoughtless, inexcusable attacks that will affect the lives of victims for long after the criminals – and that’s what they are, not protesters as some mainstream media outlets define them – have stopped bragging about their exploits. There is no basis for the rioting, other than a juvenile yet threatening ‘they’re doing it, so will I, f the police and any other authority’ attitude.
Facebook and Twitter proved invaluable this morning as I rushed to validate what I believed to be happening. Despite much of the chatter being unconfirmed, there were images that showed what was going on – and more importantly, where, with rioters identifiably on Barton Street, High Street, Brunswick Road and Eastgate Street.
One of my friends, a special constable, was out in the ranks at the cordon for the GlosCat building fire, selflessly putting himself in harm’s way with many others, not for remuneration, because the role is unpaid, but because that’s what people do. Right-minded citizens stand up for their community and don’t seek to destroy it from the inside out. Not through vigilantism, as tempting as many will find that – myself included, but through coming together to pick up the pieces and helping the police flush out the bandwagon-hopping imbeciles responsible. You can help by circulating images online, trying to only pass on information you know to be true, but most importantly, you can help by getting involved in the clean-up if and where you can. The city doesn’t need hot-headedness in the face of these idiots – leave the space in the cells for the rioters – it needs a rational, composed and united response. The clean-up starts today.