UK streets calmer after nights of riots and chaos

LONDON Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:54am IST

Police officers from Wales patrol outside a boarded up shop in Streatham, south London August 10, 2011. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Police officers from Wales patrol outside a boarded up shop in Streatham, south London August 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

Related Topics

LONDON (Reuters) - Days of rioting and looting across Britain looked to be cooling on Wednesday after Prime Minister David Cameron's promised a fightback and flooded city streets with police to try to restore order.

By 9.30 p.m., incidents were limited to isolated skirmishes and standoffs between riot police and groups of youths, after four nights when often unchecked violence had been well under way by nightfall.

The capital -- host to the 2012 Olympics -- looked set for another uneasy but relatively quiet night, with 16,000 police deployed across the city and local groups protecting areas torn apart by arson, looting and running street battles.

Other cities in northern and central England such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham, which suffered the worst violence on Tuesday night, also appeared calmer.

"We needed a fightback and a fightback is under way," Cameron said after a meeting on Wednesday of the government's COBRA committee that deals with national security crises.

"Whatever resources police need, they will get."

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, making deep cuts to public services to tackle a record budget deficit, has been quick to deny that the unrest was linked to austerity measures, calling the disorder "pure criminality".

Public anger over the widespread looting of shops appears to have strengthened the government's argument, with stolen goods ranging from the expensive -- televisions and jewellery -- to the absurd -- sweets and bottles of alcohol.

However, community leaders and rioters themselves said the violence was an expression of the frustration felt by the poorest inhabitants of a country that ranks among the most unequal in the developed world.

"They've raised rates, cut child benefit. Everyone just used it as a chance to vent," one man who took part in unrest in the east London district of Hackney told Reuters.

"BROKEN SOCIETY"

After being accused of a sluggish response, Cameron has ordered parliament to reconvene on Thursday, disrupting his own summer holiday and the parliamentary summer recess.

He made no reference to social and economic problems in inner-city areas. The initial trouble flared after an Afro-Caribbean man died from a gunshot wound after an incident involving armed police in London.

"There are pockets of our society that are not just broken but frankly sick," said Cameron, who has made fixing "broken Britain" a cornerstone of his premiership.

Courts worked through the night on Wednesday to process riot cases. Among the defendants were an 11-year old boy, a charity worker and a teaching assistant. More than 1,000 arrests had been made, with 805 in London alone.

VIGILANTES

In Birmingham, police launched a murder inquiry after three Muslim men died after being run over by a car in the mayhem there. The men had been part of a group of British Asians protecting their area from looters.

The violence has appalled many Britons, who have been transfixed by images of rioters attacking individuals and raiding family-owned stores as well as targeting big business.

It has also prompted soul-searching.

Community leaders said the violence in London, the worst for decades in the multi-ethnic capital of 7.8 million people, was rooted in growing disparities in wealth and opportunity.

"This disturbing phenomenon has to be understood as a conflagration of aggression from a socially and economically excluded underclass," the liberal Independent newspaper said.

The right-wing Daily Telegraph took a harder line.

"The thugs must be taught to respect the law the hard way. These riots have shamed the nation and the government must be held to account."

(Additional reporting by Tim Castle, Paul Hoskins, Adrian Croft, Avril Ormsby, Peter Griffiths; Jodie Ginsberg, Stephen Addison; Writing by Matt Falloon and Angus MacSwan; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

FILED UNDER:
  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Nuclear Talks

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Cabinet Changes

Cabinet Changes

Hagel resigns as U.S. defence secretary.  Full Article 

Terrorism Threat

Terrorism Threat

UK faces biggest terrorism threat in its history - minister.  Full Article 

Facing a split

Facing a Split

Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa wins 2015 budget vote despite defection.  Full Article 

Suicide Attack

Suicide Attack

Bomber targeted police commander in Afghan volleyball game attack.  Full Article 

Budget Slash

Budget Slash

Indonesia's cost-cutting, economy-flying leader slashes travel funds.  Full Article 

Presidential Ballot

Presidential Ballot

Tunisia presidential vote heads into close run-off.  Full Article 

Mobile Boost

Mobile Boost

Bank on poor women and phones to drive growth in Africa, experts say.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage