Residents blame government as Manchester looted

10th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

As masked youths burned down a fashion store and clashed with police in Manchester, residents of Britain's third largest city blamed the government for failing to deal with social problems.

Hundreds of masked youths tore through the centre of the city in northwest England on Tuesday, looting and smashing shop windows as the worst riots in Britain for decades spread beyond London on a fourth day of violence.

Riot police were driven back by gangs of hundreds of youths who hid their faces behind scarves and ski masks, leaving gangs to smash into shoe shops, electronics stores and clothes shops.

Some of the rioters smashed the glass entrance of the Arndale shopping centre, the city's main shopping mall, opening the way for around 100 youths to pour into a shop before rushing out carrying clothing and shoes.

Gangs taunted the police, who used dogs and sent in plain-clothes officers to seize looters as they battled to regain control.

A young woman who gave her name as Nabzy told AFP: "I've seen people smash shops, people running, riot police chasing people, people chased by police dogs.

"I've seen one guy left inside Tesco because he was looting inside and the police let their dogs inside and jumped on top of the guy and started biting him. It was really bad."

The fuse for the violence was lit in London last week when police shot dead 29-year-old Mark Duggan, who was travelling in a taxi which police had stopped in an operation to prevent gun crime in the black community.

The shooting sparked a riot in Duggan's home district of Tottenham which sparked copycat violence across London before it moved into other English cities.

Nabzy insisted that the background to the trouble was a feeling that the poor were being forced to bear the brunt of deep austerity cuts introduced by Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government.

"They (the government) are going to have to make their own sacrifices, not just think about the rich people. It's all the poor people that are suffering now. It's really bad."

Glen Barkworth, general manager of the Arndale shopping centre, said he had experienced a "surreal night", but he pointed to the apparently organised approach of the rioters.

"What I've seen and the manner in which the rioters have split themselves into numerous groups, we're not talking about a group of 200 to 300 people doing damage. We're talking about half a dozen groups doing damage all over the centre," he told the BBC.

Greater Manchester Police's Assistant Chief Constable Terry Sweeney said youths had gathered seeming "intent on committing disorder".

"We will not allow such mindless criminal damage and wanton violence to go unpunished and we will arrest and prosecute anyone found to be involved in looting or acts of criminal damage," he said in a statement.

As dawn broke over the battered city centre, police had detained 108 people in Manchester and in nearby Salford, where clashes also flared.

© 2011 AFP

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