London police said on Wednesday they had arrested a total of 768 people -- one as young as
11 -- in London since looting and rioting began on Saturday, and had charged
more than 100 suspects, mainly with burglary and public order offenses.
The first riots broke out on Saturday in north London's Tottenham
district, when a protest over the police shooting of a suspect two days
earlier led to violence.
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Police are likely to come under fresh pressure over that incident after a
watchdog said on Tuesday there was no evidence that a handgun retrieved
by police at the scene had been fired. Reports initially suggested Mark
Duggan had shot at police before they shot and killed him.
Meanwhile, following a massive police crackdown, British cities began on
Wednesday to clean up shopping streets littered with debris from a
night of looting by gangs of hooded youths copying the tactics of young
Londoners who had rampaged through districts of the capital for three
London itself was largely quiet on Tuesday night, with some 16,000
police -- 10,000 more than on Monday -- sent onto the streets in a show
of force in districts where gangs had looted shops and burned cars and
buildings virtually unchecked on the previous three nights.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who cut short a family holiday in Italy to
deal with the crisis, was due to chair a second meeting of COBRA, the
government's crisis committee, and recalled parliament, a rare
occurrence, to debate the violence.
The chaos in London, and fears of further disruption, led to the
cancellation of an England-Netherlands soccer friendly on Wednesday and
the postponement of three club matches.
The looting also showed the world an ugly side of London less than a
year before it hosts the 2012 Olympic Games, an event officials hope
will serve as a showcase for the city.
A visit by an International Olympic Committee went ahead on Tuesday "as
planned" and the London organizers of the Games said the violence would
not hurt preparations for the Olympics.
While heavy policing in London prevented all but a few incidents in the
capital, copycat looting and violence erupted in cities and towns to the
north and west.
Groups of youths in hooded tops fought running battles with police in
Manchester in northwest England, smashing windows and looting shops, and
setting fire to a clothes shop.
In Salford, greater Manchester, rioters threw bricks at police and set
fire to buildings. A BBC cameraman was attacked. Television pictures
showed flames leaping from shops and cars, and plumes of thick black
smoke billowing across roads.
"Greater Manchester Police has been faced with extraordinary levels of
violence from groups of criminals intent on committing widespread
disorder," Assistant Chief Constable Gary Shewan said.
"These people have nothing to protest against - there is no sense of
injustice or any spark that has led to this. It is, pure and simple,
acts of criminal behavior which are the worst I have seen on this
In Liverpool's Toxteth district, rioters attacked two fire engines and a
fire officer's car, police said. Earlier, some 200 youths throwing
missiles wrecked and looted shops, causing 'disorder and damage', police
Police said they had arrested 47 people in Manchester and Salford, and 37 in Toxteth.
In Gloucester, in western England, eight fire crews fought a blaze in a
large derelict building, cars were set on fire and groups of youths
attacked police with rocks and bottles.
Cars were burned and stores looted in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton,
and in the Midlands town of Nottingham a gang of young men set fire to a
police station. There were also disturbances in Birmingham and
Leicester in the Midlands, and Milton Keynes north of London.
In London, commuters hurried home early on Tuesday, shops shut and many shopkeepers boarded their windows.
Gangs have ransacked stores, carting off clothes, shoes and electronic
goods, torched cars, shops and homes -- causing tens of millions of
pounds of damage -- and taunted the police.
Community leaders said the violence in London, the worst for decades in
the multi-ethnic capital of 7.8 million, was rooted in growing
disparities in wealth and opportunity, but many insisted that greed was
the looters' only motive.
Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters: "This is criminality pure and simple and it has to be confronted and defeated."
"People should be in no doubt that we will do everything necessary to
restore order to Britain's streets," he said after the first meeting of
The unrest poses a new challenge to Cameron as Britain's economy
struggles to grow while his government slashes public spending and
raises taxes to cut a yawning budget deficit -- moves some commentators
say have aggravated the plight of young people in inner cities.