London riots set homes, shops ablaze; police arrest 42

7th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Emergency services on Sunday restored order to a London district where rioters torched homes and looted shops as a protest at the fatal shooting of a local man by police turned violent, leading to 42 arrests.

Police said 26 of its officers were hurt, one with a head injury, while arrests were made following the violence in Tottenham, north London, late on Saturday, which sparked condemnation from Prime Minister David Cameron's office.

"The rioting in Tottenham last night was utterly unacceptable," a Downing Street spokesman said in a statement.

"There is no justification for the aggression the police and the public faced, or for the damage to property. There is now a police investigation into the rioting and we should let that process happen."

Police on Sunday said they were still having to deal with "isolated pockets of criminality in the Tottenham area involving a small number of people."

A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said all the fires were under control.

"We are still at the scene of some of them to damp them down and make sure everything is out," he added.

The mayhem, which broke out in Tottenham just before sunset on Saturday, followed a protest over the death of a 29-year-old man last week during an apparent exchange of gunfire with police.

Thursday's killing of Mark Duggan, a father-of-four, was "absolutely regrettable," police commander Adrian Hanstock said in a statement, adding that an investigation into the shooting was underway.

"It is absolutely tragic that someone has died, but that does not give a criminal minority the right to destroy businesses and... livelihoods and steal from their local community," he said Sunday.

"There was no indication that the protest would deteriorate into the levels of criminal and violent disorder that we saw," Hanstock said.

The demonstration had been a peaceful rally outside the police station on Tottenham High Road before two police cars were attacked with petrol bombs and set ablaze.

A double-decker bus was then torched as the violence rapidly spread, with gangs of hooded youths descending on the area, in turn setting alight homes and businesses and looting shops.

There was concern that the unrest was fuelled by rapid posts on social media inciting others to join in.

Central London has seen student and trade union protests turn ugly in the last 12 months but this outbreak of rioting was the worst seen for years in the suburbs.

One eye-witness said Saturday's scene resembled the Blitz, or when parts of London burned following German bombing in the Second World War.

"So many people have lost everything. It's just crazy. It looks like it's the Second World War. It looks like the Blitz where we were living," Tottenham resident Stuart Radose told Sky News television.

Tottenham is an ethnically-diverse urban area best known for its English Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur.

"This is an attack on Tottenham, on people, on ordinary people," local member of parliament David Lamy told reporters.

"Women who are now standing on the streets homeless. These are ordinary shop keepers who live above their shops."

Duggan was killed when specialist firearms officers stopped a minicab in which he was travelling to carry out a pre-planned arrest.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission, which investigates all police shootings said they were accompanied by officers from Trident, the unit focused on tackling gun crime in the black community.

The march against Duggan's death began at Broadwater Farm, a 1960s public housing estate in Tottenham that is notorious across Britain.

In 1985, police constable Keith Blakelock was hacked to death on the estate in some of the worst urban rioting in Britain in the past 30 years.

© 2011 AFP

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