Riot police have been deployed to the streets of London as violence broke out for a third day running. Officers have clashed with rioters in Hackney, Peckham and Lewisham where vehicles have been set on fire. It follows two nights of violence over the weekend which started after a police shot a man dead in Tottenham.
London’s mayor Boris Johnson is cutting short his holiday to return to the city, where more than 200 people have been arrested and 35 officers injured. Home Secretary Theresa May also returned early from holiday, to meet Acting Metropolitan Police (Met) Commissioner Tim Godwin and other senior officers.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh said they discussed the police response to the violence. He said: “They were looking at preparations for tonight (Monday) to make sure any violence is dealt with quickly.” (BBC)
Mrs. May condemned the riots as “sheer criminality” and said those responsible would “face the consequences of their actions.” She said: “The riots in Tottenham on Saturday night and the subsequent disturbances in other parts of London are totally unacceptable.” (BBC) She also paid tribute to the bravery of police officers and urged local communities “to work constructively with police to help them bring these criminals to justice.” (BBC) Mrs. May said at least 215 people had been arrested and 25 people charged.
A peaceful protest in Tottenham on Saturday over the fatal shooting by police of Mark Duggan, 29, was followed by violence which spread into Sunday. A candlelit vigil was due to be held at The High Cross in Tottenham on Monday evening.
A BBC journalist said the latest violence started in Mare Street, Hackney, when a man was stopped and searched by police but nothing was found. Riot vans were drafted in and there are up to 200 police officers in riot gear in the Hackney area. Groups of people began attacking the police at about 1620 BST, throwing rocks and a bin at officers. Police cars were also smashed by youths armed with wooden poles and metal bars. Looters also smashed their way into shops, including a JD Sports store, before being dispersed by police. Planks of wood taken from a lorry were then hurled towards lines of riot officers.
Violence has also broken out in Peckham, south London, where a shop and a bus have been set on fire.
In nearby Lewisham, footage showed a number of vehicles and a trail of bins on fire. “This is just thugs wanting to intimidate people,” Councillor Michael Harris told the BBC. “We’ve had good community relations in Lewisham and it’s simply not justified.” He described the people carrying out the acts as young people whose faces were covered with masks. (CNN)
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh said there were “significant resources” on the streets, with a third more officers on duty than on Sunday. He said: “What we can see is that the Metropolitan Police are getting police officers there in numbers. When we have large numbers of criminals intent on that type of violence, we can only do that, get lots of officers there quickly and try to protect local businesses and local people.” He also admitted relations with the family of the man shot dead by police could have been handled better. Mr. Kavanagh said: “I want to apologize to the Duggan family because I think both the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) and the Metropolitan Police could have managed the family’s needs more effectively.” (BBC)
“This has changed from a local issue into organized criminality,” Stephen Kavanagh said Monday as he announced a “momentous investigation” to track down the perpetrators. “We will make sure that this criminality is not allowed to continue,” Kavanagh told Sky News. (CBC)
Saturday’s riots occurred after the shooting death Thursday of Mark Duggan, a black man, as he was seated inside a cab. Officers from Operation Trident – the Metropolitan Police unit that deals with gun crime in in London’s black communities – stopped the cab during an attempted arrest and soon afterwards shots were fired, the IPCC said. Duggan, a father of four, was fatally shot. Shooting deaths are rare in England. The commission divulged neither who shot Duggan nor why police had stopped the cab.
Some reports suggested that Duggan was held down by police and shot in the head, but the IPCC denies this. “Speculation that Mark Duggan was ‘assassinated’ in an execution style involving a number of shots to the head are categorically untrue,” the IPCC said in a statement. (CNN)
Scotland Yard police commander Stephen Watson on Sunday described the scenes as “distressing,” but stressed public safety was “paramount.” He said in a statement that police “are aware of raised tensions… which are understandable following the tragic death… What we experienced earlier on yesterday evening was a peaceful protest outside Tottenham police station – there was no indication it would deteriorate ni this way. For those who involved themselves in this level of violence, there is no excuse.” (CBC)
The violence has cast a pall over a city preparing to host the 2012 Olympic Games. “I hope people will have a fantastic Olympics no matter what happened last night,” London Mayor Boris Johnson said in a telephone interview with BBC television on the weekend, trying to assure the world his city was safe.
Others weren’t so sure, suggesting that the riots exposed incipient tensions at a time of sharp public sector cutbacks and economic uncertainty. “This is just a glimpse into the abyss,” former Metropolitan Police commander John O’Conner told Sky News. “Someone’s pulled the clock back and you can look and see what’s beneath the surface. And what with the Olympic Games coming up, this doesn’t bode very well for London.” (CBC)
“The scenes of violence and destruction over the weekend are utterly appalling,” said Mr. Johnson in a statement. “People have lost their homes, businesses and livelihoods through mindless violence. I understand the need for urgent answers into the shooting incident that resulted in the death of a young local man, and I’ve sought reassurances that the IPCC are doing exactly that. But let’s be clear these acts of sheer criminality across London are nothing to do with this incident and must stop now.” (CNN)
Also on Monday, Premier League football club Tottenham offered to help rebuild the disadvantaged north London neighbourhood after the rioting and looting. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said the club is “deeply saddened” by the weekend rioting, which saw buildings in the area torched and police officers injured.
“The club is committed to supporting its community with help with both the physical clean up of our area and the longer term rebuilding of the community spirit,” Levy said in a statement. “It is more critical than ever that community, business and political leaders – local and national, public and private, now work closely together to support the regeneration of this area and we shall certainly look to play our part in that.” (CBC) The damage at White Hart was limited to a ticket office, which remains closed. But stadium tours have been canceled for “safety reasons,” Tottenham said. Tottenham is due to host Everton on Saturday in its Premier League opener.
Kiolometres from the tourist hotspots of central London, Tottenham is one of England’s most deprived areas. In 1985, it was the scene of one of the most violent riots in the country’s history after a local woman suffered a heart failure when her home was raided by police. One officer was stabbed to death as he tried to protect the firefighters and nearly 60 others hospitalized.