A wave of relative calm has descended over England, as most cities and townships that have seen rioting and looting for the past few nights subsided. The worst of it may be over.
This all started in the North London area of Tottenham. What began as a peaceful vigil in the name of justice two days after Metropolitan police shot and killed 29-year-old father of four Mark Duggan has turned into days and nights of civil unrest that spread from Tottenham to Hackney to Lewisham to Croydon to Peckham and beyond the capital, to Birmingham, to Manchester, to Liverpool.
Mobs of equally angry and greedy teenagers and young adult dickheads turned up en masse to set ablaze cars, double-decker buses, shops and buildings before switching into loot-and-rob mode.
In Birmingham, three men died after injuries sustained from an alleged vehicular homicide. The victims “were part of a group of men who had gathered in the local area to protect shops used by all sections of the local community,” according to the Guardian. “Several cars then drove past the group which was guarding local stores…and the occupants shouted abuse before one vehicle returned and mounted the pavement at ‘tremendous speed’ and hit the men, throwing them into the air.”
Police upped their forces from an estimated 6,000 in London on Monday to now 16,000 on Wednesday. British Prime Minister David Cameron said authorities have approved the use of water cannons to deter to rioters, in addition to battering rams. “We needed a fight back and a fight back is under way,” he said. The people agree: Nine out of 10 Britons surveyed said police should use water cannons. The head of police, after Cameron’s announcement, told the BBC he doesn’t believe water cannons are necessary.
Here’s an idea: Cancel this weekend’s English Premier League kickoff. No Liverpool for you, rioters. No Manchester United or Manchester City for you, looters. Who needs water cannons and battering rams when you’ve got the adult equivalent of “Go to your room with no supper” available?
London has been relatively quiet with the higher police presence, but riots and muggings and fires and looting are raging elsewhere. Of particular trouble: Liverpool, Salford (Manchester), West Bromwich, Wolverhampton, Bristol and Gloucester. Since Saturday night, Metropolitan Police have made 888 arrests and charged 371 people in connection with rioting, violence and looting in the capital. More than 330 people have been arrested in the West Midlands, and at least 140 people have been arrested in Greater Manchester.
Cameron cut short his August holiday on Tuesday to throw down the Stern Uncle Routine on the rioters and looters: “You will feel the full force of the law and if you are old enough to commit these crimes you are old enough to face the punishment,” he said. “You’re not only ruining the lives of others and ruining your own communities you are potentially ruining your own lives, too.”
As Cameron said on Wednesday, the effort to identify and arrest criminal rioters is underway: “Picture by picture, these criminals are being identified, arrested and we will not let any phoney concerns about human rights get in the way of the publication of these pictures and arrest of these individuals. As I speak, sentences are also being passed, courts sat through the night last night and will do again tonight. It is for the courts to sentence but I would expect anyone convicted of violent disorder will be sent to prison.”
Click here for a first-hand account of what happened in Manchester on Tuesday…
That’s Manchester’s elite Tactical Aid Unit serving up some “cold justice.” Too harsh or not enough?
Amy Weston, the WENN photographer who took this famous shot from Croydon, relayed this bit of back story: “There were six or seven people screaming and crying outside, and they looked like they lived at the flats that were burning. The flats were above small independent shops. A man in a white shirt was screaming that a girl was at the window and that she was ready to jump. He ran towards her but riot police had appeared and pulled him back, and they went to her instead. As soon as she dropped, the crowds pushed back and there was no way to see what happened to her. I remember hearing people screaming that there were more people in the building. The crowds started getting angry with each other, with one group blaming another group for starting the fire.”
To get a feel for what it’s like out there on the streets, check out this amateur footage showing feckless thugs robbing an injured, bleeding young man after someone in the group helps him of the ground. The young man has been named as Mohd Asyraf Raziq Rosli, a 20-year-old Malaysian student. Rosli said he was “out early to buy food to break his Ramadan fast when he was set upon.” The student was treated at a local hospital for a broken jaw and disjointed teeth.
Here he is in the hospital:
Surely Britain and the world will debate the causes and the underlying issues that led to this rioting at length over the new few weeks and months. The focal point may be these comments by Home Secretary Theresa May. This, from a Guardian article in September 2010: “The home secretary, Theresa May, has dismissed fears that deep spending cuts could undermine the ability of the police to tackle possible civil unrest, and insisted the British did not respond to austerity by rioting on the streets. May told the police superintendents’ annual conference that it was ‘ridiculous’ to suggest savings could not be made in policing, and went on to challenge the political orthodoxy that fewer officers would inevitably mean more crime. The home secretary pointed out that around the world significant falls in crime had happened alongside stable or even falling police numbers.” That’s being tested now.
Is this riot about austerity measures, about the dispossessed, about the downtrodden, about the voiceless making themselves heard? It might be. It might just be roving thugs. But what many UK news outlets are calling “mindless violence” doesn’t exist in a vacuum — why are these roving gangs of mostly young males trying to steal as many huge TVs as possible? Why are they standing up to police and torching cars? How are police responding to this provocation? England has some soul-searching to do.
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