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London riots: 4 key questions

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What are the rioters' grievances?

Locals say that Duggan’s death “unleashed a tidal wave of anger” from a population that is feeling the pressure of the economic downturn and cuts – and has the highest rate of unemployment in London. In the past year, Prime Minister David Cameron’s government has dramatically cut back public spending in a bid to shore up Britain’s economy amid a European economic crisis.

"This has been building up for a long time," a local young man named Leon told the Guardian.

"We don't agree with burning buildings but the police do treat young black people with shocking disrespect … labeling us like we're nothing."

In a column for the Guardian, academic Nina Power writes that such frustration over discrimination is widespread, and has been compounded by increased financial struggles.

The policies of the past year may have clarified the division between the entitled and the dispossessed in extreme terms, but the context for social unrest cuts much deeper. The fatal shooting of Mark Duggan last Thursday … is another tragic event in a longer history of the Metropolitan police's treatment of ordinary Londoners, especially those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and the singling out of specific areas and individuals for monitoring, stop and search and daily harassment.

Combine understandable suspicion of and resentment towards the police based on experience and memory with high poverty and large unemployment and the reasons why people are taking to the streets become clear. (Haringey, the borough that includes Tottenham, has the fourth highest level of child poverty in London and an unemployment rate of 8.8%, double the national average, with one vacancy for every 54 seeking work in the borough.)

As for what they hope riots and looting will accomplish, no one seems to know. The rioters don’t have political motivations, according to British media, although some anarchists are out in the streets with them.

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