Writer to BBC interviewer: ‘Stop accusing me of being a rioter’

Dylan Stableford
The Cutline

The British media has fielded plenty of criticism over its coverage of the U.K. riots--in part, for siding with police in their clashes with London youth, and for not telling the latter's side of the story.

"Wretched media coverage on London protests from BBC to Al Jazeera," a post on the WikiLeaks Twitter feed read. "Not a single protester interviewed. Absolutely pathetic."

On Tuesday, the BBC interviewed Darcus Howe, a 68-year-old West Indian writer, broadcaster and resident of one of the South London suburbs affected by the riots.

Howe was asked by a BBC host if he condoned the riots--and things turned ugly.

"What I am concerned about ... there is a man called Mark Duggan--he has parents, he has brothers, he has sisters," Howe said. "A few yards away from where he lives, a police officer blew his head off. Blew his face off!"

Fiona Armstrong, the BBC host, immediately cut Howe off.

"Mr. Howe, we have to wait for the official inquiry before we can say things like that," she said. "We are going to wait for the police report on it."

Armstrong then steered the discussion away from Duggan and to Howe's grandson, who he had mentioned earlier in the interview.

"They have been stopping and searching young blacks for no reason at all," Howe said. "I have a grandson, he is an angel. Police slapped him up against a wall, and searched him. I asked him the other day, having a sense that something seriously wrong is going on in this country, 'How many times have police searched you?' He said, 'Papa I can't count, there are so many times.'"

Armstrong cut him off again. "Mr. Howe, that may well have happened, and if you say it did, I'm not against you. But that is no excuse to go out rioting and causing the sort of damage we have been seeing over the last few days."

"Where were you in 1981 in Brixton?" Howe fired back, a reference to the bloody riots between Metropolitan Police and blacks in South London in April of that year. "I don't call it rioting--I call it an insurrection of the masses of the people. It is happening in Syria, it is happening in Clapham, it's happening in Liverpool, it's happening in Port-au-Spain, Trinidad, and that is the nature of the historical moment.""

Armstrong then tried to infer that Howe, himself, had a history of participating in riots.

"I have never taken part in a single riot," Howe snapped. "I've been part of demonstrations that have ended up in a conflict. Have some respect for an old West Indian Negro, and stop accusing me of being a rioter."

As the segment concluded, he added: "You sound like an idiot."