Violence erupts outside London as capital waits

Riots erupt in Salford, part of greater Manchester, youths throw bricks at police, cars burned in southern UK town; London police in waiting.

By REUTERS
August 9, 2011 23:17
3 minute read.
London police, cops

London UK police, cops_311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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LONDON - Riots flared in English cities and towns on Tuesday night as London waited anxiously to see if thousands of police deployed on its streets could head off the youths who had rampaged across the capital virtually unchecked for three nights.

In Salford, part of greater Manchester in northwest England, rioters threw bricks at police and set fire to buildings. A BBC cameraman was assaulted.

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Television pictures showed flames leaping from shops and cars in Salford and Manchester, and plumes of thick black smoke billowing across roads.

In central Manchester, police said a clothes shop was set alight. "I can confirm a shop is on fire and 200 youths that gathered in the city center have been chased by riot police and dispersed. Seven arrests have been made so far," a spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said.

Further south in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton, cars were burned and stores raided.

In London, commuters hurried home early, shops shut and many shopkeepers boarded their windows as the city prepared nervously for more of the violence that had erupted in neighborhoods across London and spread to other cities. Police promised to nearly triple their deployment on the streets.

Community leaders said the violence in London, the worst for decades in the huge, multi-ethnic capital, was rooted in growing disparities in wealth and opportunity.

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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.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who cut short a family holiday in Tuscany to deal with the crisis, 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 a meeting of the government's crisis committee, COBRA.

Another such meeting was set for Wednesday. Cameron also recalled parliament from its summer recess, a rare move.

Cameron said 16,000 police officers would be on the streets on Tuesday night, compared to the 6,000 out on Monday night. London has a population of 7.8 million.

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 that some commentators say have aggravated the plight of young people in inner cities.

Police arrested more than 200 people overnight and a total of 450 over the three nights, filling the city's cells to capacity. More than 100 police officers were injured.

A 26-year-old man died after being shot in Croydon, south of London, the first fatality of the riots.

Many Londoners feared another night of trouble. Sales of baseball bats and police batons shot up more than 5,000 percent in the last 24 hours on Amazon's British website.

Youth gangs were reported to be coordinating their movements though social networks -- particularly secure-access Blackberry Messenger groups -- and targeting shops.

Local member of parliament David Lammy said he was asking Blackberry to suspend its messaging service.

The police have been accused of failing to bring the situation under control by going in softly to spare local sensibilities. On Tuesday, London's police said they would consider using rubber or plastic bullets.

The first riots broke out on Saturday in north London's Tottenham district, when a peaceful protest over the police shooting of a suspect two days earlier led to violence.

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