Riots, arson and looting across London and parts of the UK have resulted in more than 600 arrests and led the Prime Minister David Cameron to recall Parliament (August 11) to deal with the crisis.
After flying back from holiday in Italy last night he announced that 16,000 police will be on the streets of London tonight (Tuesday), compared to 6,000 on Monday when they failed to get a handle on the rapidly moving pockets of violence. All Metropolitan Police leave has been cancelled and reinforcements called in from other forces.
Mr Cameron addressed the rioters from Downing Street after chairing a meeting of the emergency COBRA committee, saying: ‘I have a clear message: 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. ‘We will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain’s streets and make them safe for the law-abiding.’
He condemned what he called ‘sickening scenes of people looting, vandalising, thieving, robbing.’
With some rioters as young as seven, acting Metropolitan Police Commissioner Tim Godwin urged parents to keep their children indoors at night. Londoners, many of whom have lost homes and businesses, are calling for a curfew, rubber bullets and water cannon tonight.
Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steven Kavanagh said ‘It was a shocking and appalling morning for London to wake up to. The Met was stretched beyond belief in a way that it has never experienced before.’ When asked at what stage he would consider bringing in the Army he said that ‘all options are being considered.’
The mainly teenage mobs targeted designer trainer shops and high-end electronic stores, including some in Oxford Street in the centre of London. A group of young teenage rioters were this morning drinking rose wine and explaining to reporters that their targets were the police, the government and rich people who own businesses. The original peaceful protest at a shooting in the north London suburb of Tottenham on Saturday morphed into coordinated looting around the city involving Twitter and Blackberry messengers.
As a plume of smoke from the Sony Building hovers over the M25 newspaper headlines scream Anarchy in the UK and Lawless London. The Football Association has cancelled England’s international friendly against the Netherlands at Wembley on Wednesday night and London League matches have also been cancelled, as well as a fixture in Bristol where 150 rioters were on the streets.
Elsewhere there have been 100 arrests in Birmingham after youths rampaged through the central shopping area, smashing windows and looting from high end shops, and an unmanned police station in Handsworth was set alight. They descended on the Emporio Armani store causing £500,000 of damage and ran through the Bullring using bins and chairs to shatter shop windows.
In Nottingham a police station in the St Ann’s area was attacked and 200 tyres set alight in the street.
Up to 200 youths in masks rampaged through Toxteth in Liverpool and cars were damaged in Manchester.
Police in Leeds faced ‘small pockets of disorder.’
The Met Police, still struggling with the bribery scandal, is facing more criticism for its handling of the situation. Met commander Christine Jones said the violence was ‘simply inexcusable’ and questions are being asked about how social order could be lost so quickly and the world’s premier financial centre have come under siege. David Cameron is being criticised for failing to return earlier from Tuscany and Home Secretary Theresa May, London Mayor Boris Johnson and Leader Ed Miliband have all cut short their holidays.
Retail organisations say the cost of the disorder reaches ‘tens of millions of pounds.’ Across the country people are using social media to organised massive clean-ups after what many are describing as a criminal shopping spree. But most of London was untouched by the riots and some commentators are urging the media to retain a sense of proportion.
Though comparisons are being made to the Eighties riots which prompted a rethink of police community relations, these eruptions are being seen as opportunist criminality. James Treadwell of Leicester University’s Department of Criminology said, ‘Just how much of the riots is disenchantment and how much is overattachment to consumption? Less about frustration, all about the loot?’
In Leicester community leaders called for calm and the restoration of order.
Manjula Sood, chair of the Leicester Council of Faiths, said, ‘We urge all communities to stay calm and be vigilant. There are alarm bells ringing across the whole country. We have to work together and all protests must be peaceful. We pray the violence does not spread.’
Justice of the Peace Suleman Nagdi said, ‘The Federation of Muslim Organisations has long argued for more resources for our police. Our police feel neglected and used as a political football. They work studiously whilst their political masters slowly deliberate. It appears to me that our police officers are responding to the rioters with one hand tied behind their back.’
He added, ‘The judicial system cannot escape the microscope. The public expects those found guilty of these heinous offences to receive robust and appropriate sentences. A slap on the wrist is not merited on this occasion whilst people see their homes in flames, their workplaces ripped up and the nation held to ransom.’