Summary: What shall we name what is happening in London? While investigating gun crimes, police shot and killed Mark Duggan, a 29 year-old Black man who was carrying a loaded gun (though it should be said, he never fired the weapon on police). Catalyzed by Duggan's death, protests, looting, and destruction of public and private property have rapidly spread across London. Is it a riot, an uprising, a rebellion, a social movement, or is it an insurrection? Whatever frame we choose has important consequences for the shape of things to come. For instance, the word riot suggests disorganized destruction, whereas an insurrection suggests an organized effort against oppression. One frame will likely garner more support for this social upheaval than the other. In this clip, the BBC interviews Darcus Howe, a television journalist and long time grass-roots activist. At the 3:08 mark, Howe keys the current turmoil, which is spread throughout London, to that which took place in 1981 in Brixton. He then insists that what is happening in London is an "insurrection of the people." At 3:40, the BBC reporter appears to challenge Howe's credibility by naming him a rioter. "Mr. Howe," she interrupts, "if I could just ask you, you are not a stranger to riots yourself, I understand, are you?" Howe refuses this frame in his reply: "I have never taken part in a single riot. I've been on demonstrations that ended up in a conflict." The clip would work well with a class grappling with social movements and the importance of collective action frames. To quote Benford and Snow (2000, p. 613), the confrontation between Howe and the reporter is a rather vivid example of two signifying agents "actively engaged in the production and maintenance of meaning for constituents, antagonists, and bystanders or observers. [Signifying agents] are deeply embroiled, along with..local governments, and the state, in what has been referred to as a 'politics of signification' (Hall 1982)."
Submitted By: Lester Andrist