Sunday, August 7, 2011

Police make 55 arrests during north London riots

A small, peaceful demonstration against the killing of a man in north London turned violent Saturday night as hundreds of rioters broke windows, set fire to cars and looted local shops.
Scotland Yard said Sunday that one officer was hospitalized as a result of the violence, while 26 others were
injured. At least two police cars, a shopping mall and a double-decker bus were set ablaze after the small protest swelled to include between 300 and 500 people.
The looting began around midnight, when rioters could be seen loading cars with merchandise or pushing full shopping carts down the streets.
Police reported Sunday evening that they made 55 arrests, while London's fire department said it dealt with 49 fires in Tottenham. No firefighters were injured.
"This is just a glimpse into the abyss," former Metropolitan Police Commander John O'Connor told Sky News television. "Someone's pulled the clock back and you can look and see what's beneath the surface. And what with the Olympic Games coming up, this doesn't bode very well for London." 
The majority of arrests were for burglary. Other offences included violent disorder, robbery, theft and handling stolen goods.
A small crowd, mostly consisting of friends and family, had gathered Saturday outside the Tottenham Police Station to protest the killing of Mark Duggan.
Duggan, 29, was shot dead by police Thursday while he was being placed under arrest.
NBC News reporter Martin Fletcher reported Sunday that police said they were conducting a "planned operation" Thursday when they arrested Duggan in a taxi.
According to Fletcher, police say Duggan shot at a police officer, who returned fire. Duggan, a father of four, was killed, while the bullet fired at the officer hit his portable radio.
Events spiraled out of control as word of the protest spread over social media and hundreds of people convened outside the station, according to Fletcher.
"Initially it was just a small demonstration outside the Tottenham police station against the killing of this man," Fletcher told CTV News Channel in a telephone interview.
"And then that developed into rioting, which then developed into widespread looting and setting on fire of the building. So the actual protest against the killing of this man was confined to the police station and a small number of people."
Protesters who appeared bent on violence tried to storm the police station while armed with weapons including bottles filled with gasoline, baseball bats and metal bars.
Police in riot gear and on horseback tried to control the crowd, but their presence didn't prevent the destruction and looting that carried on well into Sunday.
Scotland Yard commander Stephen Watson released a statement Sunday in which he called the incident "distressing."
"What we experienced earlier on yesterday evening was a peaceful protest outside Tottenham police station -- there was no indication it would deteriorate in this way," Watson said. "For those who involved themselves in this level of violence, there is no excese."
Tottenham is one of the poorest areas of London, where as many as 50 per cent of children live in poverty. The last riot to occur in the area was back in 1985, after a woman suffered heart failure during a police raid on her home. A policeman was beaten and stabbed to death during the resulting riots, while dozens of other officers were injured.
Fletcher said that since that incident, police and community leaders have "taken pains" to establish good relations.
"The rioting and the looting (on Sunday) was not by the community at all," Fletcher said. "It was by young thugs mostly whose faces were covered who just took advantage of the situation to loot and burn."
Fletcher reported a heavy police presence in Tottenham on Sunday, with area residents "wandering the streets, looking with some astonishment at the debris."
Police commander Adrian Hanstock said that officers from Tottenham are on the streets and will remain there to restore calm in the area.
"Should we have any indication of further violence or other offending, we have a policing plan in place and will respond appropriately," Hanstock told The Associated Press. 
The Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is investigating the shooting of Duggan, said in a statement released Sunday night that a "non-police firearm" was recovered at the scene.
Local lawmaker David Lammy, who addressed residents from behind police lines, denied that Saturday night's protest marked the undoing of community-police relations.
"We don't want 25 years of community and trust destroyed because of mindless nonsense," Lammy said.
But he was met with yells of, "When are we going to get justice? We need justice man," from a man in the crowd.

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