- (Reuters/Stefan Wermuth)
London has seen its worst rioting in years, as north London’s Tottenham neighborhood erupted in violence overnight with 500 rioters settings cars and buildings on fire. The riots, sparked by the shooting of a local man by police, also saw looting and policemen being attacked.
London’s Scotland Yard has reported that 26 police officers were injured in Saturday’s riots, with at least one confirmed to have suffered serious head injuries in clashes with protesters.
Scotland Yard has said, “There remain isolated pockets of criminality in the Tottenham area involving a small number of people. Officers are currently taking steps to deal with these incidents
Police Commander Adrian Hanstock said: “Last night's disorder and violence in Tottenham is completely unacceptable. The behavior by a criminal minority put police officers, fire brigade personnel and the public at significant risk.
“The death of Mr. Duggan is extremely regrettable and will be the subject of an independent investigation by the IPCC. It is absolutely tragic that someone has died, but that does not give a criminal minority the right to destroy businesses and people's livelihoods and steal from their local community.
“There was no indication that the protest would deteriorate into the levels of criminal and violent disorder that we saw. We believe that certain elements, who were not involved with the vigil, took the opportunity to commit disorder and physically attack police officers, verbally abuse fire brigade personnel and destroy vehicles and buildings.”
He added: “We do not believe that this is something that the vast majority of law abiding citizens in Tottenham would condone or would want.”
Police have arrested 42 people in connection with the trouble so far, although many more arrests are likely in the coming days.
The riots saw cars, shops, as well as an iconic London red double-decker bus set ablaze. Looting was also reported in the area as protests increasingly got out of control.
At the high of the unrest, it is believed some 500 rioters faced off against 100 police officers and special riot teams. All stemming from anger at Mark Duggan, 29, being shot dead by police on Thursday; Duggan has been described by police as a “gangster.”
Duggan was killed Thursday evening after an attempted arrest turned into a fierce fire fight with police officers. Duggan was shot dead and an officer was also injured and hospitalized. A police radio was found to have a bullet stuck in it.
Political figures in Britain were quick to condemn the aggressive protestors. The office of British Prime Minister David Cameron denounced the violence as “utterly unacceptable.”
British Home Secretary Theresa May has said, “I condemn utterly the violence in Tottenham last night. Such disregard for public safety and property will not be tolerated, and the Metropolitan Police have my full support in restoring order.”
She added: “I wasn’t to pay tribute to the officers who put themselves in harm’s way.”
London Mayor Boris Johnson has said, “I'm appalled at the scenes of violence and destruction in Tottenham.”
He added: “The events leading to these disturbances are rightly being investigated by the IPCC. Harming people and property will do nothing to facilitate the investigation, it will only make the situation worse.”
Commander Stephen Watson reported, "These are very distressing scenes for Londoners in general and the local community in particular. Our intention at this time is to bring things to as swift a conclusion as we can. Our absolute aim is to restore normality."
Tottenham, a working class district in north London, has a history of trouble with police. The area is far from the central London tourist landmarks of Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. In 1985, there was extensive violence in the “Broadwater Farm” riots after the death of a 49-year-old woman, who suffered a heart attack after police burst into her home.