Nothing makes me prouder.
Young people have taken to the streets across the globe – Egypt. Syria. Even Quebec. – and put their lives on the line to protest an unjust world foisted upon them.
Perhaps surprisingly, London joined the riotous masses last week. So what brought local youth to the street? High unemployment among their ranks. City services tilted to the other end of the age spectrum. The Grand Theatre booking Hair.
Not quite. It was St. Patrick’s Day.
Cry freedom, young Londoners, cry freedom.
Last week, hundreds of London’s worst and dimmest rioted over, well, the fact the calendar’s lone drinking-based holiday fell on a warm Saturday. Flipped vehicle, fires, riot gear, all the makings of a proper uprising except one small item: a worthwhile cause.
On the bright side, nobody threw a banana.
The riot sparked up on Fleming Drive, a notorious Fanshawe College student ghetto with a Bukowski-like streak of drunken mayhem for the last decade. Despite drawing from other groups, high schoolers and general hangers-on, the college has taken the heat for this one.
Guessing the mob’s recorded chants of “Fanshawe! Fanshawe!” didn’t help that cause.
Yes, it seems at times ‘general mayhem’ can be taken for class credit at the local college. But our campus knows Western students are not immune to poor decisions. We dealt with it in the 1980s, when a riot involving more than a thousand people resulted in tear gas flying. In many ways, maintenance of that ‘party school’ culture change continues to this day.
While many university students may scoff at their college colleagues, understand the city doesn’t see much difference between the two.
‘Those damn students.’ You’re all the same to them.
Kids, you are dealing with a city that is not in the mood. After Caterpillar, Banana Guy, Occupy London evictions and that ridiculous song Mayor Joe dropped, this city is not ready for another international black eye.
Yet, here it is.
Susan Truppe, MP (London North Centre), issued one of the many statements following the riot. “I am proud to be a Londoner,” she wrote. “Acts like these do not represent the wonderful people of our city. …”
I know that’s true; but at what point do acts like these actually start representing us?
City leadership knows the growing national perception of this community. Trust me. There will be a reaction from the mayor and city council, quite possibly of the knee-jerk variety. But when a weary (voting) public demands action, some sort of action will be taken. And who can blame them?
They cannot stop the party, you say? Maybe not. But they can make it difficult.
At Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill., the school’s annual Halloween festivities often ended in similar riots. In that community, it was the city, not the university, who put an end to it.
Among numerous measures taken, Carbondale’s most Draconian step would be to close by bylaw all bars and liquor stores on Halloween weekend.
Much like Fanshawe president Howard Rundle, Southern officials tried to share the blame with “deeper social issues” (e.g. tolerance of binge drinking), often overlooking the culture it allowed to fester.
Yes, landlords, parents and, most importantly, the youth themselves are at fault. But they are not going to be the source of the solution. Someone needs to do something about it. And at Southern, in the face of a school dragging its feet, the city did. I expect to see that here.
I would hope the vast majority of students – university and college – distance themselves from this group of yahoos as much as possible. Do not remain silent. This city can paint anyone under 40 with a broad brush. Help the city come up with solutions. Take part of the decision out of their hands.
And in the end, maybe we can help this community a bit.