Prince Charles visits riot-hit London communities

17th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla on Wednesday met families left homeless by the London riots, with some locals pleading for funds to help drag wayward youngsters away from trouble.

The heir to the throne and the Duchess of Cornwall broke off from their holiday in Scotland to show solidarity with urban communities scarred by the violence, arson and looting.

Speaking of the unease still gripping many neighbourhoods, Charles said it was time to deal with the "real causes" rather than the "symptoms" of England's worst civil unrest in decades.

The couple visited Tottenham's leisure centre, which has been turned into an aid centre for residents of the multi-ethnic neighbourhood of north London whose homes were burned down during violence on August 6.

Rioting broke out in Tottenham following a protest against the fatal police shooting of a local man, Mark Duggan, two days earlier.

Rampaging youths and arson attacks destroyed many shops and flats on the main road and left up to 200 people homeless.

Two days later, copycat violence erupted in Hackney, east London, then spread to other parts of the capital and on to other major cities such as Manchester and Birmingham.

Charles visited Hackney to meet youth ambassadors and volunteers at a centre for the Prince's Trust, the charity he founded in 1976 to help turn around the lives of disadvantaged youngsters.

"Young people join gangs because it is a cry for help," the 62-year-old prince said.

"There are not enough extra-curricular activities and young people are lacking opportunity. A lot of people are dealing with the symptoms and not looking at the real causes.

"You can now go out there and motivate others and set an example for young people and show them there is another way.

"You are the army we have to mobilise."

Gina Moffat, 34, urged Charles to lobby Prime Minister David Cameron for more funding.

Moffat, who spent three years in jail, now runs a florist and a cafe in Tottenham thanks to help from the Prince's Trust.

"You need to say to Cameron: 'put more money to help young people'," she told the prince.

"I actually thought David Cameron was coming today and I was going to ask for his help. But he's not here. I'm sure you'll find a way to see him."

Holistic therapist Laura Rennis, 26, told AFP at the centre: "There needs to be a change of mindset, a sense of unity. Today young people don't feel like they are part of a community. This needs to change."

Many residents said they appreciated that the royals had broken off their summer holiday to make the unannounced visits, a day after Cameron toured the area.

"You wouldn't expect them to care, so it's really nice," said one 20-year-old woman who watched the royal couple arrive at Tottenham's leisure centre.

"This is a very deprived area. It's taken something as bad as the riots to get those people in the area."

Haley Jackson, 23, who had brought clothes, shoes and toiletries to the centre for needy families, managed to shake hands and talk with the prince.

She said the royal visit was important. "It's not going to bring back their houses and everything they've lost, but it is recognition."

Tottenham would recover from the rioting, the dance instructor said. "If the community sticks together it will get dealt with."

Local youth worker Dymond Allen, 33, also greeted Charles as he arrived, saying "Welcome to Tottenham" and calling the prince over for a handshake.

Allen, who bears a scar across his forehead and a gold tooth, told AFP he and other youth workers had been out on the streets during the riots in Tottenham, trying to plead with youngsters they knew to stay out of trouble.

"It's showing that there is some type of empathy there," he said.

"But realistically I think the people want more change. They don't want to be sitting down talking, they want more action."

© 2011 AFP

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