England Under SiegeIn Blog
CIVIL unrest spread across major cities in Britain as more than 16,000 police poured on to the streets of London in an attempt to halt the mob rule which has brought the city under siege. Plans to prevent a fourth night of violence in the capital meant all police leave was cancelled and much of the city was shut down early, but instead disorder broke out in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Manchester, where the city’s tram system was suspended. A police station in Nottingham was firebombed by a group of 30 to 40 men while 36 arrests were made in the West Midlands and police warned people to stay out of the centre of Salford to escape the disorder.
Police forces in Scotland were preparing to mobilise riot officers today, if required, following a request from police chiefs south of the Border amid fears the violence would intensify. Concerns that the trouble would continue were fuelled by the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s announcement that a man shot dead in Tottenham by police on Thursday had not opened fire on officers before he was shot in the chest. It was protests against the death of Mark Duggan, 29, that escalated into the widespread violence, vandalism and looting which has left more than 110 officers hospitalised. The Duggan family said they were “gutted and very angry” about the results of the initial ballistics tests and said someone must be held accountable over the death. An earlier hearing heard Mr Duggan, who was stopped while travelling in a minicab, died of a single gunshot wound to the chest and the IPCC later said he was carrying a loaded firearm at the time. In a statement on behalf of the Duggan family, Helen Shaw, from the organisation Inquest, said: “The family want everyone to know that the disorder going on has nothing to do with finding out what has happened to Mark. They also want people to know they are deeply distressed by the disorder affecting communities across the country.”
Prime Minister David Cameron, who said he was “sickened” by the aftermath of the heaviest rioting, is this morning due to chair a second meeting of the Government’s emergency planning committee in as many days after flying back from holiday in Italy. Parliament is being recalled tomorrow to discuss the developments.
Mr Cameron earlier warned the young people involved in the riots: “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.” Just as rioters had appeared to have used social networking sites to organise the disorder, clean-up operations in London were organised through Twitter and Facebook and online groups were cropping up last night in opposition to the riots, including one named “Let’s NOT start a riot in Glasgow”. A 16-year-old boy was earlier arrested in the Cessnock area of Glasgow for allegedly “inciting others to commit acts of disorder” on Facebook. Alexander “Zander” McQuarrie is due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court today.
Tayside Police later confirmed an 18-year-old man had also been arrested in connection with Facebook entries encouraging others to show up in Dundee city centre with weapons to riot. David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, called for BlackBerry’s instant messaging service, which allows users to send encrypted and private messages, to be suspended after rioters used it to mobilise. “This is one of the reasons why unsophisticated criminals are outfoxing an otherwise sophisticated police force,” he said. The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland was last night examining what resources could be made available to anti-riot operations following a formal request from English counterparts.
There was speculation that up to 30 vans of riot police were due to travel south this morning, although a spokesman said this was exaggerated. However, it is understood Strathclyde Police was making arrangements for officers to move this morning. By 8pm Manchester city centre was described in local news reports as “closed for business” after rioters descended on Market Street, firebombing a branch of Miss Selfridge’s, smashing the windows of nearby stores and attempting to break into the Arndale Shopping Centre. Riot police had tried to move crowds who had gathered on Piccadilly Gardens, leading to running battles with youngsters wearing masks and hoods. Looters also helped themselves to alcohol from Sainsbury’s Local at the corner of Bridge Street..
In nearby Salford, protesters threw rocks at riot police and torched at least one vehicle.
Hazel Blears, the Labour MP for Salford and Eccles, said she had spoken to her local police chief who feels disorder in her constituency “is very much copycat behaviour”, with many of the rioters already “well known to the police”. The former Home Office minister added “wall to wall coverage” of the violence and disorder in London had encouraged people elsewhere in the country to organise their own riots.