London violence extends into third day

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Violence has continued in parts of London, the British capital, for a third day with fears that rioting may extend through the night.

Protesters hurled rubbish bins and supermarket trolleys at officers on Monday night and some rioters broke into shops, apparently to find objects to throw at police lines.

Police with riot shields responded by charging them as they tried to seal off an area around Hackney Central station in the east of the city. Dozens of officers have now been deployed to the streets of Hackney.

It’s also being reported that there is unrest in Lewisham, in south east of the city where rioters set fire to buildings, climbing on roofs and breaking into houses.

There are also disturbances in Peckham a few miles away.

The violence follows riots on Saturday and looting on Sunday in other parts of London.

Nine police were injured in several parts of the city on Sunday night and early on Monday, although the damage was on a smaller scale than Saturday’s rioting.

Government officials branded rioters as “opportunistic criminals” and said the violence, the worst in London for years, would not affect preparations for next summer’s Olympic Games.

Police arrested more than 200 people across London in a weekend of mayhem that started in Tottenham in north London on Saturday, and spread to nearby Enfield and Brixton on Sunday night.

The trouble began amid protests over the death of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old man who was shot dead by police in Tottenham on Thursday.

Very few details of Duggan’s death have been released. Police said initially an officer was briefly hospitalised after the shooting and media reports said a bullet had been found lodged in the officer’s radio.

Although a gun was recovered from the scene, The Guardian newspaper reported that the bullet in the radio was police-issue, throwing doubt on speculation that Duggan had fired at an officer.

Britain’s police watchdog is investigating the incident and would not comment on the report.

History of racial tension

The multi-ethnic neighbourhood of Tottenham, where the rioting began, has a history of racial tension, with locals – especially Afro-Caribbean residents – resenting police behaviour, including the use of stop and search powers.

Police said on Monday they had responded to what they called “copycat criminal activity” across London.

There was looting in a number of boroughs in north, east and south London by small and mobile groups. And groups of youths continued to attack police officers, damaging a number of police vehicles.

“It’s not so easy to explain the violence of the past two days,” Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Phillips said, reporting from the riot-hit district of Brixton.

“It began in the north London neighbourhood of Tottenham – the catalyst was the killing by police of a black man.”

British politicians say racial tensions or poverty do not justify what has happened in the last couple of days.

“The riots that took place in Tottenham on Saturday night and subsequent disturbances in other parts of London are totally unacceptable,” Theresa May, Britain’s interior minister, said.

“Once again I would like to pay tribute to the brave police officers who put themselves in harms way to protect the public, their property and local businesses.”

Nick Clegg, Britain’s deputy prime minister, echoed the sentiment, “It was needless, opportunistic theft and violence, nothing more, nothing less. It is completely unacceptable.”

London police criticised

The London police force has been criticised for its handling of recent large protests against the austerity measures, and its chief and the top counter-terrorism officer recently quit over revelations in the News Corp phone-hacking scandal.

While Britain’s politicians were quick to blame petty criminals for the violence, neighbourhood residents said anger at high unemployment and cuts in public services, coupled with resentment of the police, played a significant role.

“Tottenham is a deprived area. Unemployment is very, very high … they are frustrated,” Uzodinma Wigwe, 49, who was made redundant from his job as a cleaner recently, said.

Steve Kavanagh, a deputy assistant commissioner with the London force, said the first priority had been to ensure the safety of fire crews who came under attack as they tried to put out blazes.

“We weren’t flat-footed,” he said. “Priorities had to be determined and the resources were put where the greatest risks were. We experienced a very rapid increase in levels of violence.”

The riots come at a time of deepening gloom in Britain as the pain from economic stagnation is exacerbated by deep public spending cuts and tax rises aimed at eliminating a budget deficit that peaked at more than 10 per cent of GDP.


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