Weak signals

I had a little preview of the violence we’ve seen over the last few days as I walked home on Thursday last week. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a cyclist going faster than normal and then I saw four more. Five kids, teenagers at least, came streaming down the road towards the traffic lights. One of them turned left and the others tried to follow but they were going too fast and the road was slippery from the rain. The final cyclist skidded as he rounded the bend and fell against the bonnet of a stationery car waiting at the traffic lights. He was fine. It was a slow crash.

But then the shouting started. The driver gestured at the kid. The kid let the bike fall to the ground and shouted at the driver through the closed car window. The traffic light was still red. The other kids had circled round and dropped their bikes in the road and were walking up to the car. The kid knew he had backup. He went to open the door of the car but the driver slammed the car into reverse to get away. The door was open but swung shut as the car accelerated away from the kid. Backwards. Car horns started blaring and pedestrians around the junction stopped to see what was going on.

The kids were shouting but shocked that the car had moved. Then to driver accelerated forwards. Quickly. The kid had to jump out of the way. His bike was flattened and then dragged along underneath the car, sparks and smoke streaming out. Then the driver reversed again. This time taking two more of the bikes that were lying in the other lane with him. Three crumpled bikes. The kids now tried to jump onto the car as it couldn’t go any further back — there was a transit van in the way. The driver did reverse though and there was a crunch as the rear bumper of the car crumpled against the transit van. The driver then found first gear and drove out over the lights, turning left and accelerating noisily away.

People were out of their houses and the shops now. Nobody quite knew what had happened. As the car had gone round the corner I tried to get out my phone to take a photo of the number plate but fumbled and he was gone (it was a he — I did see his face as he drove over the lights). I tried to remember the registration plate of the car but i knew that adrenaline was affecting my memory and now I can remember very little. I know it had a T and 4 in it and the car was grey. Possibly it was Peugeot saloon car but I can’t be sure. It’s not that I didn’t see it, it’s that my memory wouldn’t work properly because of the chemicals my body was pumping through it. This was all taking place around 20 metres away from me.

The kids were all unhurt but didn’t know what to think. They picked up the remainders of their bikes and ran into the back streets nearby. All that was left a minute after all this happened was some broken plastic in the road and some astonished onlookers who didn’t know what to think or do.

I can’t help thinking that while something sparked the events we’ve seen over the last few days, the conditions for this to happen have been present for much longer.

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