MORE than 100 residents joined investigators seeking answers after the devastating riots which swept through the borough in August.
Members of the national Communites and Victims Panel visited Ealing Town hall last night to hear views on the causes, effects and possible ways of preventing the violence happening again. It is their first big public meeting in a series of events planned at riot-hit areas across the country.
The four-strong team, led by former Ealing Council chief executive Darra Singh, were joined by the borough's own panel of seven councillors.
In one of the few accounts from victims, Leni White described how she was forced to flee her flat above the Ealing Green Local Supermarket, and her fight with insurers as she tries to rebuild her life.
She said: "I think we were treated worse by the insurers than the rioters themselves, which is sad."
Despite her ordeal, she warned against demonising young people, who have largely been blamed by the media.
A point echoed by Ealing youth mayor Jahanara Chaudhry, who was joined by two other members of Ealing Youth Action, which represents the views of young people in the borough.
She said young people did not feel the government was listening to them and there are not enough opportunities, compounded by the scrapping of the education maintenance grant and the hiking of university fees up to £9,000.
And pointed out the violence was mainly committed by adults. A fact backed up the head of the Ealing's Youth offending Service, Alastair Romanes, who said across the capital, only 25 per cent of those involved were young people.
Lack of opportunity was regularly cited as a cause, although not an excuse, for the riots.
Residents seemed divided over whether police needed more powers and whether the unrest was simply opportunism or a form of protest. Many said consumer culture mixed with few life chances fuelled the anger that led to the destruction. All seemed to agree that a sense of community, respect and family values had been lost.
Although it was not all bad news: speakers reminded the crowd of the community clean-up the following day and other support by residents, of the solidarity shown by the Sikhs in Southall who protected their community and projects such as the skate park.
The meeting finished with the police promising to learn "a huge number of lessons" from their inability to protect the borough.
North west area commander Christine Jones, who attended with borough commander Andy Rowell, said a review was underway and that safer neighbourhood teams would be key to building even stronger relations with the community than the "huge steps" that have already been taken.
After gathering evidence from other areas, including speaking to rioters, the panel will report back their initial findings in November.
Residents can still have their say by contacting the Ealing riot panel at email@example.com or on 020 8825 7497.
More views on the night
- Leni White, who lived above the Ealing Green Local Supermarket, said: "We had to basically flee for our lives and have had to fight for every bit of help. Although we've received some good support from the council, it wasn't readily available when we needed it. "We haven't been told if anyone has been arrested in connection to what happened to us."
- Borough Commander Andy Rowell said, with his limited number of officers, the priority was to try to contain rioters in Ealing Broadway and defend that area.
He said there had been 236 arrests, that 60 per cent of the crime had been "cleared up" so far and investigations continue.
- Ealing's NUT secretary Nick Grant, speaking for the borough's teachers, said figures showing 25 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds in the borough are unemployed is of "huge concern".
Adding that government cuts are putting huge strain on schools and reducing young people's life chances.
He said: "I'm not here to apologise for the riot, and certainly not for manslaughter, but you can't ignore tensions that build up because of cuts and the way unemployment is not being addressed."
- A 21-year-old student at West London University, said: "Ten years ago I was convicted of arson. Luckily no-one was hurt. After my conviction there were some fantastic services which enabled me to turn my life around.
"If these services were publicised more and were available to more people then it could stop this happening again."
Council leader Julian Bell, whose officers were praised for the speedy clean-up of the borough the following day, said: "I could talk about our services but what I want to get across to the panel is the sheer terror residents experienced that night, I have heard numerous accounts and saw it for myself. It was very, very frightening. It was a miracle that more than one person wasn't killed."