Marcus Knox-Hooke Mark Duggan London Riots Police 2011

Photo courtesy of Marcus Knox-Hooke (top left), Mark Duggan (pictured right)

Mar­cus Knox-Hooke: the man blamed for the Lon­don riots

“Could the 2011 riots happen again? 100%.”

Eight years ago, Lon­don was riot­ing. Shops were loot­ed, five peo­ple died and an esti­mat­ed £200m pounds of dam­age occurred in just two and a half days. With­in hours the anger and vio­lence of a griev­ing com­mu­ni­ty in the cap­i­tal had spread as far as Birm­ing­ham and Man­ches­ter.

Mar­cus Knox-Hooke was 29-years-old at the time. On Sat­ur­day 6th August 2011, he was try­ing to make sense of the news that his best friend Mark Dug­gan had been killed by police offi­cers after the taxi he was rid­ing in was pulled over two days ear­li­er. The police ini­tial­ly described it as a shootout – a sto­ry that’s since been retract­ed – while an enquiry even­tu­al­ly ruled that Mark hadn’t been car­ry­ing a weapon at the time of his death.

Along with Mark’s fam­i­ly and mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ty, Mar­cus marched down to the police sta­tion in what start­ed as a peace­ful protest. We didn’t come to start a fight,” he tells me, we just want­ed answers.”

For six hours, they wait­ed out­side the police sta­tion, but nobody came out to talk. It’s the way the com­mu­ni­ty is dealt with,” Mar­cus explains. Mark’s part­ner want­ed to ask why nobody had told his fam­i­ly that he’d passed away. They deal with you like you’re rub­bish.” Mar­cus’ grief turned to anger, his anger turned to rage and when the crowd were final­ly told to go home, he van­dalised a police car in protest. 

Mar­cus’ actions became a cat­a­lyst and a peace­ful protest turned into a riot that would last days, lead­ing to report­ed effects in cities as afflu­ent as Oxford. In the sum­mer of 2011, he was, at least in the prosecution’s eyes, the insti­ga­tor of the British riots.

I first met Mar­cus in 2016, a few years after his 32 month sen­tence (the charge for start­ing the riots had been dropped, and he’d accept­ed a plea deal for vio­lent dis­or­der, rob­bery and bur­glary). He was the sub­ject of a doc­u­men­tary called the Hard Stop which fol­lowed him and Kur­tis Henville (anoth­er of Mark Duggan’s close friends) as they nav­i­gat­ed life fol­low­ing the after­math Duggan’s death. It’s not an easy watch, with the pair bat­tling grief, anger, home­less­ness and unem­ploy­ment, but Mar­cus’ deter­mi­na­tion to become a pos­i­tive role mod­el is pow­er­ful and mov­ing.

This month marks the eighth anniver­sary of the riots. It also marks the announce­ment of a new wave of pol­i­cy changes under Boris Johnson’s gov­ern­ment, includ­ing a pilot scheme which low­ers the autho­ri­sa­tion need­ed for a sec­tion 60 stop and search. It allows offi­cers to search any­one in a des­ig­nat­ed area with­out sus­pi­cion for a defined peri­od if police antic­i­pate seri­ous vio­lence, despite the fact that only 2% of all stop and search­es car­ried out under sec­tion 60 between April 2017 and March 2018 led to an arrest for an offen­sive weapon.

Eight years on, The Face meets with Mar­cus to dis­cuss police ten­sions, men­tal health and whether the 2011 riots could hap­pen again.

Marcus Knox Hook London Riots Police 2011

Marcus Knox-Hooke on the Broad​water Farm estate in London, 2016.
Photography by: Karen Robinson / eyevine.

Marcus' story

I grew up going to youth clubs. In sum­mer they’d take us go-kart­ing or we’d eat ice cream on trips to Southend. You and your friends would come and chill. You could play out­side, or on the com­put­ers. There was paint­ing, foot­ball. What­ev­er you were doing you were nev­er bored. We had a nice upbring­ing, but today kids have noth­ing to do. You see them sit­ting around smok­ing weed. We need more youth ser­vices, if you brought back these clubs they would def­i­nite­ly utilise them. A lot of the big organ­i­sa­tions like Tesco, JD Sports… these fran­chis­es in deprived areas should help make it a lit­tle eas­i­er for youth to get work. When you’re on the streets with noth­ing to do, that frus­tra­tion builds and they take it out on each other.

Could the 2011 riots hap­pen again? 100%… It’s the way the com­mu­ni­ty is dealt with, like you’re rub­bish. We didn’t come to start a fight. 2011 was anoth­er exam­ple of how they treat­ed a com­mu­ni­ty. If they had just stuck to their word that some­one would come and talk to us, then we would have gone about our busi­ness. We were out there for six hours, there’s no expla­na­tion, no chance to ask ques­tions. That’s why it esca­lat­ed the way it esca­lat­ed. You’re not going to lis­ten to us, you’re not going to give us a voice.

Since they killed Mark, I’ve noticed a lot of peo­ple are phys­i­cal­ly fight­ing back against the police. I saw a video last year of two kids being stopped by offi­cers, one of them kicked the offi­cer and man­aged to escape. It takes two to tan­go. The stig­ma that police are com­ing up in, they auto­mat­i­cal­ly see gang mem­bers even if it’s just a group of kids com­ing from col­lege. The com­mu­ni­ty also needs to do their part as well. If you’re inno­cent, [being searched] shouldn’t be a prob­lem, but when you’re stopped reg­u­lar­ly through­out the week, you might be in a rush to get some­where and then you’re being pulled over, it gets annoy­ing. The police need to change their approach in how they patrol the streets, and they need to be held account­able. The whole crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem needs to change. At the moment It’s one rule for them and anoth­er for us. The sys­tem wasn’t cre­at­ed to ben­e­fit black peo­ple and eth­nic minori­ties. We’re about to tour the Hard Stop [a 2015 doc­u­men­tary about the riots] in Amer­i­ca and we’ve been reach­ing out to pol­i­cy mak­ers. It hap­pened here – they take notes and they talk for the sake of talk­ing. We need to get peo­ple into posi­tions where they can talk about pol­i­cy and laws. Be in posi­tions where they can help ben­e­fit their own community.

The police need to change their approach in how they patrol the streets, and they need to be held account­able. The whole crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem needs to change.”

I think they do need to length­en the sen­tence if some­one is caught with a knife. If you stab some­one it can be GBH, it should be straight attempt­ed mur­der. I think that def­i­nite­ly would put peo­ple off car­ry­ing a knife. Gun crime in the UK isn’t as heavy as stab­bings because if you get caught with a gun you’re going to get a very heavy sen­tence. Kids aren’t just walk­ing around with flip knives, they’re walk­ing with big Ram­bo knives and machetes. If you get caught with those the sen­tence should be lengthy. We need to teach peo­ple it’s not accept­able… Mums are cry­ing week­ly, day in day out, kids are get­ting stabbed for some­times no rea­son, do you know what I’m saying?

There are so many amaz­ing grass­roots organ­i­sa­tions [work­ing to end knife crime]. There’s the Kiyan Prince Foun­da­tion [an organ­i­sa­tion offer­ing work­shops to dis­suade young peo­ple from car­ry­ing a knife], a young boy named Far­ron Paul col­lects knives from kids in exchange for JD vouch­ers; he has a cult fol­low­ing and a lot of peo­ple reach­ing out to him. You have these organ­i­sa­tions try­ing to do some­thing but we’re not invest­ing enough into them. If [the gov­ern­ment] don’t want to do the work at least give them the fund­ing to do it. I tried to set up a men­tor­ing organ­i­sa­tion and it was dif­fi­cult. I reached out to all the schools in Har­ringay and pitched my idea to them, only one or two got back to me and no one was inter­est­ed in my idea. Apply­ing for fund­ing is dif­fi­cult. But if peo­ple reach out to me I’m still will­ing. Because of my pro­file I get asked to do work­shops. I want to show these kids, look, I’ve come from where you’ve come from – it’s not all about the streets. That’s not the be all and end all.

I’m a father and I’m about to be a grand­fa­ther. In the years that have passed, I feel like I’ve done a lot of grow­ing up. I’m all about fam­i­ly. I lost a broth­er last Sep­tem­ber, that had a major impact on me and my fam­i­ly. I’m close with the mosque that was doing the funer­al ser­vice. I said I want­ed to go and pick him up myself. When I got to the hos­pi­tal mor­tu­ary where he was I went in there and saw him lying cold on the table, it was so sur­re­al. I felt so dis­ap­point­ed, there were signs he need­ed help, but I think I dealt with it in the wrong way. I thought he was try­ing to seek atten­tion but I didn’t under­stand that he was actu­al­ly in real need of help. Los­ing Mark was dev­as­tat­ing, then los­ing my broth­er as well has been very dif­fi­cult. You go through a lot of emo­tions and you see your fam­i­ly go through a lot of emo­tions, but my expe­ri­ences have def­i­nite­ly made me a stronger per­son. It’s taught me to pay more atten­tion to fam­i­ly. I used to live, accord­ing to street cul­ture, but now I live accord­ing to me. I put myself and my fam­i­ly first.” 

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