I was in Birmingham City Centre today. Last night (August 8th 2011), 800 rioters rampaged through these streets. They out-numbered the police 2 to 1 and mostly raided shops. It was fairly obvious, from looking at the damage, that these were people after all they could steal. This wasn't a political protest, though the recession and the decisions of politicians could well be underlying causes.
Strolling through, Birmingham felt relaxed. There were police everywhere you looked; as well as hordes of workers, boarding up smashed windows and sweeping the streets. That is the story of the city at the moment - police and those securing the properties. By relaxed, I meant that no-one was rioting and there was not an air of tension.
As for the people, the majority were incredulous, staring, taking pictures, shaking their heads and telling anyone who'd listen that this isn't right. One thing that struck me was the dissociation between ordinary Brummie and those who had rioted. "Why would they do this?" "What were they after?" "It looks like they were after 'phones and clothes." Nowhere was it 'us'. No-one was owning the rioters. They were other, distinct, not people from Birmingham.
The destruction had been more apparent, earlier in the day, but council workers, staff from businesses and a broom wielding army of people from Twitter's @RiotCleanUp had already been in. They had done the city proud.
Here are some pictures of Birmingham City Centre, all taken during the afternoon of August 9th 2011, in the aftermath of the riot.
(With much thanks to Miyamashi, for helping me whittle down these from 177 images.)