Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

My Nightmare on 'Scum Street'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

My Nightmare on 'Scum Street'

Article excerpt

Byline: John Sweeney

ZOMBIES, ghouls and exoskeletons materialised through the thick, black, wheelie-bin-on-fire smoke and threw housebricks, makeshift spears and chunks of concrete at a thin line of riot police. The cops, outnumbered by the undead, charged, faltered and fell back. It was dark Swan Lake, a zombie-ballet choreographed by Edvard Munch.

Scum Street, as the "Scumoween" organisers baptised our neighbourhood in north Lambeth, fizzled with fear at three o'clock on Sunday morning. Our street was in the hands of the undead and they were angry. Angry because they weren't allowed into the party they'd organised on somebody else's property -- a derelict lot owned by the London Fire Brigade. And because they couldn't have fun, that meant they felt they had the right to throw things that could kill people in uniform and terrify us non-party-goers.

London loves a party.

I love a party. But people don't have a human right to throw a party wherever they want, whenever they want, and then attack and vandalise if someone in uniform says, "Sorry, you can't have your way." At the core of what the riot-ravers do is a colossal narcissism so total that the consideration of other people's feelings and fears counts as nothing.

One week ago, for BBC Newsnight, I travelled 1,500 miles trying to find Azam, a small Syrian boy with a broken jaw who had vanished from a Belgrade hospital before treatment. During this nigh-on impossible task I asked refugees, shivering in the cold and rain, to read our #FindAzam poster. They showed consideration to the search for one small lost boy out of a million refugees. Thanks to them, and BBC Arabic, I found Azam.

One officer I met in Lambeth -- as our street came out to hand out tea and biscuits to his exhausted colleagues after they'd quelled the rioters -- said he had seen the Panorama documentary I'd made in September which featured Azam's disappearance. …

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