Two Men Who Made Their Mark On History
Brutality by London police, from daily stops-&-searches to fatal encounters, sparked repeated riots in Britain’s capital city including in Howe’s community of Brixton in South London and Tottenham in North London. The 2011 riots that started in Tottenham and spread into other London communities plus over a dozen cities across England began as a reaction to a fatal police shooting of a black man in Tottenham. That riot thrust Howe back into the news.
Howe, during a live interview with a BBC anchor during the 2011 riots, refused to accept that anchor’s insistence that he castigate the young riot participants as crass criminals. Howe tried to provide context for the upheavals, citing the daily abuses by police endured by young blacks but that anchor did not want to hear Howe's fact based account.
When Howe referenced the upheavals as an insurrection not a riot, frustrated BBC anchor Fiona Armstrong tore into Howe accusing him of taking part in “riots yourself” – a reference to the Mangrove Nine incident. Howe’s retort set Armstrong straight on his personal history (“protests but no riots”) and the history of British police abuses. Howe's on-air retort brought embarrassment to Armstrong and a belated apology from the BBC.
Howe was “a key Black cultural and intellectual giant, writing and broadcasting, agitating powers, who he felt had disregard for Black people,” wrote Simon Woolley, director of England’s Operation Black Vote.