Smoky skies in UK's Black Country as riots spread

9th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

The skies over Britain's Black Country turned black with smoke once again as the frenzy of violence spread from London to the industrial West Midlands on Tuesday.

Vehicles were torched as hooded thugs rolled around West Bromwich town centre, moving on foot or wheeling around on bicycles, and clashed with police in Wolverhampton.

The Black Country, an urban sprawl to the northwest of the second city of Birmingham, central England, is so called due to the air pollution that turned the church spires black during Victorian times.

Known worldwide for their English Premier League football teams, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton, two of the biggest areas in the conurbation, caught the violence bug on Tuesday.

Youths dragged wheelie bins into the middle of the street and tipped them over and shop windows were smashed in.

Huge plumes of thick black smoke filled the air from a car and a white van belonging to a carpet firm that were were torched by rioters.

A dozen rioters rocked the van before setting it on fire and lined up behind the makeshift barricade across the main street as police in riot helmets stood on the other side, screened off by the smoke.

Television pictures showed a gang lined up behind a barricade in a stand-off with scores of police in front of vans.

Tom Watson, the lawmaker for West Bromwich East, who has been in the spotlight recently for his grilling of global media baron Rupert Murdoch over the phone hacking scandal, said he was sickened by the scenes.

"A group of youths, a couple of hundred youths, met in the centre of West Bromwich and ran down the high street and turned two vehicles in a position so that the high street was barricaded," he told Sky News television.

"They've created a situation that has left a lot of families in West Bromwich feeling very vulnerable and frightened tonight and it's utterly disgraceful and the people that have done it need to be dealt with.

"We're not an affluent area but we are generally a very happy area. We're not going to put up with this. It's completely unacceptable."

Many shops in West Bromwich closed early.

Police said they dispersed the large group of youths in West Bromwich and closed off a number of roads.

Meanwhile in Wolverhampton, only a short distance away, officers were tackling groups of males in the city centre as some shops were attacked. Buses diverted away from the scene.

Riot police clashed with hooded youths, charging at them with their riot shields as more yobs piled in.

"Police in Wolverhampton have responded to reports of a large group of people in the city centre," West Midlands Police said.

© 2011 AFP

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