Tags: london | riots | police | violence

London on Fire: Thousands of Police Deployed to Stop British Riots

Wednesday, 10 Aug 2011 11:19 AM

By Newsmax Wires

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Britain will not allow a culture of fear to take over the streets, Prime Minister David Cameron insisted Wednesday after a night of relative calm in London,  saying police have drawn up contingency plans to use water cannons if necessary.

"We will do whatever is necessary to restore law and order onto our streets," Cameron said in a somber televised statement. "Nothing is off the table."

Cameron has already recalled Parliament from its summer recess for an emergency debate on the riots Thursday.

Thousands of extra police officers on the streets kept a nervous London quiet Tuesday night after three nights of rioting, but looting flared in Manchester and Birmingham, where a murder probe was opened when three men were killed after being hit by a car.

Eerie calm prevailed in the capital, where hundreds of shops were shuttered or boarded up as a precaution, but unrest spread across England on a fourth night of violence by brazen crowds of young people.

Scenes of ransacked stores, torched cars and blackened buildings have frightened and outraged Britons just a year before their country is to host next summer's Olympic Games, bringing demands for a tougher response from law enforcement. Police across the country have made almost 1,200 arrests since the violence broke out over the weekend.

In London, where armored vehicles and convoys of police vans patrolled the streets, authorities said there were 16,000 officers on duty — almost triple the number present Monday night.

The show of force seems to have worked. There were no reports of major trouble in London, although there were scores of arrests — almost 800 people in the capital since violence began Saturday.


In the northwestern city of Manchester, hundreds of youths rampaged through the city center, hurling bottles and stones at police and vandalizing stores. A women's clothing store on the city's main shopping street was set ablaze, along with a disused library in nearby Salford.

Manchester assistant chief constable Garry Shewan said it was simple lawlessness.

"We want to make it absolutely clear — they have nothing to protest against," he said. "There is nothing in a sense of injustice and there has been no spark that has led to this."

Britain's soccer authorities were talking with police to see whether this weekend's season-opening matches of the Premier League could still go ahead in London. A Wednesday match between England and the Netherlands at London's Wembley stadium was canceled to free up police officers for riot duty.

Britain's riots began Saturday when an initially peaceful protest over a police shooting in London's Tottenham neighborhood turned violent. That clash has morphed into a general lawlessness in London and several other cities that police have struggled to halt.

While the rioters have run off with goods every teen wants — new sneakers, bikes, electronics and leather goods — they also have torched stores apparently just for the fun of seeing something burn. They were left virtually unchallenged in several neighborhoods, and when police did arrive they often were able to flee quickly and regroup.

Some residents stood guard to protect their neighborhoods. Outside a Sikh temple in Southall, west London, residents vowed to defend their place of worship. Another group marched through Enfield, in north London, aiming to deter looters.

One far-right group said about 1,000 of its members were taking to the streets to deter rioters.

"We're going to stop the riots — police obviously can't handle it," Stephen Lennon, leader of the far-right English Defense League, told The Associated Press. He warned that he couldn't guarantee there wouldn't be violent clashes with rioting youths.

Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to the bombing and massacre that killed 77 people in Norway last month, has cited the EDL as an inspiration.

In the central England city of Nottingham, police said rioters hurled firebombs though the window of a police station, and set fire to a school and a vehicle. Some 90 people were arrested.

In the northern city of Liverpool, about 200 youths hurled missiles at police and firefighters in a second night of unrest, and 44 arrests were reported.

There also were minor clashes in the central and western England locations of Leicester, Wolverhampton, West Bromwich, Bristol, and Gloucester.

In London, hundreds of stores, offices, pubs and restaurants had closed early Tuesday amid fears of fresh rioting. Normally busy streets were eerily quiet and the smell of plywood filled the air as business owners rushed to secure their shops before nightfall.

In east London's Bethnal Green district, convenience store owner Adnan Butt, 28, said the situation was still tense.

"People are all at home — they're scared," he said.

Earlier Tuesday, thousands of police prepared to deploy on London's streets to head off the rioters and looters who had rampaged through parts of the British capital virtually unchecked for the past three nights.

Commuters hurried home early, shops shut and many shopkeepers boarded their windows as the city prepared nervously for more of the violence that has flared in neighborhoods across London and spread to other cities. Police promised to nearly triple their deployment on the streets.

Editor's Note: See live BBC news feed of the riots here.

Community leaders said the violence in London, the worst for decades in the huge, multi-ethnic capital, was rooted in growing disparities in wealth and opportunity.

Gangs have ransacked stores, carting off clothes, shoes and electronic goods, torched cars, shops and homes -- causing tens of millions of pounds of damage -- and taunted the police.

Cameron, who cut short a family holiday in Tuscany to deal with the crisis, told reporters:.

"This is criminality pure and simple and it has to be confronted and defeated."

"People should be in no doubt that we will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain's streets," he said after a meeting of the government's crisis committee, COBRA.

Another such meeting was set for Wednesday. Cameron also recalled parliament from its summer recess, a rare move.

The unrest poses a new challenge to Cameron as Britain's economy struggles to grow while his government slashes public spending and raises taxes to cut a yawning budget deficit -- moves that some commentators say have aggravated the plight of young people in inner cities.

It also shows an ugly side of London to the world less than a year before it hosts the 2012 Olympic Games, an event that officials hope will serve as a showcase for the city in the way that April's royal wedding did.

"This morning was a dark morning to wake to in London. No one should wake in this wonderful city of ours to see such scenes of devastation and violence," said Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Kavanagh.

Police arrested more than 200 people overnight and a total of 450 over the three nights, filling the city's cells to capacity. More than 100 police officers were injured.

A 26-year-old man died after being shot in Croydon, south of London, the first fatality of the riots.

Many Londoners feared another night of trouble. Sales of baseball bats and police batons shot up more than 5,000 percent in the last 24 hours on Amazon's British website.

In Hackney, scene of some of the worst rioting on Monday, groups of yellow-vested police were visible everywhere.

Youth gangs were reported to be coordinating their movements though social networks -- particularly secure-access Blackberry Messenger groups -- and targeting shops.

Local member of parliament David Lammy said he was asking Blackberry to suspend its messaging service.

The police have been accused of failing to bring the situation under control by going in softly to spare local sensibilities. On Tuesday, London's police said they would consider using rubber or plastic bullets.

The first riots broke out on Saturday in north London's Tottenham district, when a peaceful protest over the police shooting of a suspect two days earlier led to violence.

PRESSURE ON POLICE

Police are likely to come under fresh pressure over that incident after a watchdog said on Tuesday there was no evidence that a handgun retrieved at the scene had been fired. Reports initially suggested Mark Duggan had shot at police.

Tottenham includes areas with the highest unemployment rates in London. It also has a history of racial tension with local young people, especially blacks, resenting police behavior.

"It's us versus them, the police, the system," said one youth at a grim housing estate in the London district of Hackney, the epicenter of Monday night's rioting.

"They call it looting and criminality. It's not that. There's a real hatred against the system." His friends, some covering their faces with hoods, nodded in agreement.

Other Londoners tried to clear up the mess.

Hundreds of volunteers carrying brooms, dustpans, rubber gloves and black bags gathered in Clapham, south of the River Thames, to help clean up.

Hackney's Mare Street, scene of serious disorder on Monday night, was largely back to normal by morning, with traffic flowing and the streets swept clean. A few shops had smashed windows boarded up, including a betting shop and a cafe.

The London 2012 Organizing Committee hosted an International Olympic Committee visit "as planned" on Tuesday and said the violence would not hurt preparations for the Olympics.

However, other sporting events suffered. England canceled Wednesday's international soccer friendly with the Netherlands and three club games were also called off.

The ramifications also extended into international finance at a time when world markets are in turmoil.

"Just a few days ago we were talking about sterling as a new safe haven but these riots taking place are another blemish that must have soured anyone's taste for the currency," said Neil Mellor, currency strategist at Bank of New York Mellon.


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