Wednesday, 10 August 2011

London violence spreads

LONDONERS woke up yesterday to not only a third night of rioting, looting and burning of shops and houses, but also to news that lawlessness and vandalism had spread to Birmingham,Manchester,Bristol and Liverpool.

What was happening across the country suddenly had nothing to do with last Thursday’s shooting of aman inTottenham, north of London, an incident that sparked a day of rioting and carnage there.

Peoplewere reeling fromshock and trying tomake sense of the happenings on the streets, the scale of which had never been seen before. Businesses were counting the cost of their losses and people were going back to smouldering wrecks that were once their homes.

A friend going to work in Croydon yesterday morning found the place full of police after a night of the worst fires when rioters burnt down a family furniture shop, Reeves Corner.

Tram tracks were also on fire.

Hanizah Rawi, who travelled from Roehampton to Croydon, had towalk from West Croydon station as there was no bus service.

Leaving for home yesterday, she witnessed the gathering of thugs at nearby Clapham Junction, and youths breaking into a Tesco store.

“Police drove by and didn’t do anything and the youths just laughed when they were told off by people,” Hanizah said.

About 1,000 youths were reported to have taken part in the incident in C r oy d o n .

This scene was replicated in other areas: thugs laughing in the face of police who were powerless.

On television screens, the thugs looked into the cameras and laughed.

One man even posted a picture of himself looting a shop on Facebook.

They confronted and taunted riot police in full gear, knowing they would not be harmed. The most police could do was push them away.

Home Minister Theresa May had rejected calls for the use of water canon to disperse the crowd and insisted on what she called policing Britain through the consent of comm u n i t i e s.

At times, looters, who were filmed from helicopters, had a field day breaking into shops and taking anything from flat-screen plasma TVs to bags of rice and sneakers without being challenged.

Cars and dustbins were set on fire and driven into shoplots to cause more fire.

Having been here for 31 years, I have never seen anything like this unfolding on TV screens.

The 1985 riots in Tottenham were big and horrible, where a policeman was beheaded.

This time, the scale and the speed with which the riots spread was astounding.

Rioters were using their BlackBerrys and social networks such as Twitter to coordinate attacks on police and to tell their friends where to find violence hot spots.

Teenagers as young as 14 were running on streets with older ones, hoods covering their heads and handkerchiefs over their faces.

There were as many spectators as there were rioters, making it even more difficult for police to take action.

Women with babies were taking pictures. Others stood around laughing.

The authorities had asked parents to get their children to stay at home.

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