Clegg visits London riot site, fresh skirmishes break out
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg Monday visited homes and businesses burned down during riots in London, as fresh skirmishes broke out between police and youths in the east of the capital.
Clegg toured the still-smoking buildings in Tottenham, a multi-ethnic neighbourhood in north London where the death of a man in a police shooting last week sparked some of the capital's worst riots in years on Saturday.
The violence spread to other areas on Sunday, with shops looted and police officers pelted with stones in the southern district of Brixton, in Enfield, Walthamstow and Islington in the north, and on Oxford Street in the city centre.
Fresh unrest broke out in the deprived eastern district of Hackney on Monday afternoon, with television pictures showing riot police facing off against hooded youths, who were attacking buildings.
At least 161 people were arrested and 35 police officers were injured over the weekend, including three officers who had to be hospitalised after being run over by a speeding car.
Tensions remained high in Tottenham following the shooting on Thursday of 29-year-old Mark Duggan, amid fresh doubts about the original account of his death during a police operation against gun crime within the black community.
The father-of-four was shot in a taxi in what was initially said to have been an exchange of gunfire. But media reports said ballistics tests now appear to show that police officers were not under attack when they opened fire.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), the watchdog probing Duggan's death, said it would release the test results within 24 hours, while an inquest to establish the facts of the shooting will open on Tuesday.
A protest Saturday against Duggan's death escalated into a riot, with homes torched and two police cars and a double-decker bus set ablaze in the worst such violence in London for years, less than 12 months before the British capital hosts the Olympics.
Police had braced themselves for "copycat criminal activity" on Sunday. Despite the extra officers, there was widespread looting, with youths seen pushing trolleys laden with electrical goods out of ransacked stores, and others seen clutching looted trainers and clothes.
Clegg, who is officially in charge while Prime Minister David Cameron is on holiday in Italy, said there was "no excuse whatsoever" for such attacks.
"Let's be clear, the violence we saw last night had absolutely nothing to do with the death of Mr Duggan. It was needless, opportunist theft and violence -- nothing more and nothing less," he said.
During a tour of Tottenham, Clegg struck a more conciliatory tone, saying: "Clearly this is something that leaves big scars and we need to work together to start to heal those scars."
Although police and politicians said much of the violence was opportunistic, community leaders and many residents in Tottenham said it points to deep social unease in the area, one of the poorest in London.
Tottenham also has a history of tensions with police, and was the scene of riots on the Broadwater Farm housing estate in 1985 when police constable Keith Blakelock was hacked to death.
After Duggan's death, rumours spread online that he had been killed in an assassination-style execution with shots to the head -- something the IPCC was forced to deny in a statement.
"The police did not give the community any information about this man who was shot," said Cheryline Lee, a Tottenham resident in her 50s.
"But burning buildings like this is much too much. People have lost their houses and people have lost their jobs as well."
In Brixton, which also has a history of tensions with the police, hundreds of people raided an electrical superstore on Sunday, a Foot Locker sporting goods store was set alight, and several shops had their front windows smashed.
Marilyn Moseley, a 49-year-old resident, condemned the riots as "pathetic", telling AFP: "It's just an excuse for the young ones to come and rob shops."
© 2011 AFP