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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Burningham: Riots reach beyond London

London: London, Birmingham and several other English cities continued to convulse with violence on Tuesday as 16,000 policemen patrolled the streets to check arson and looting. A worried Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his vacation in Italy to hasten back to the burning metropolis. 

    Despite the massive deployment, rioting took place in West Bromwich in Birmingham on Tuesday evening. Birmingham, with its large South Asian population, has been in the thick of violence since Monday. Until Tuesday evening, 525 people were arrested and 100 charged in connection with violence in the capital. In Birmingham, 138 others were rounded up by the police. RIOTS CLAIM FIRST VICTIM Indian-majority areas escape violence 
    The riots claimed their first victim when Scotland Yard said a 26-year-old man, found shot in a car in Croydon in South London, had died in hospital on Tuesday. PM David Cameron described the riots as "sickening" and almost tripled the number of policemen whose job would be to prevent riotous young people from plundering shops. Although he stopped short of calling in the military, the police considered using plastic bullets for the first time in the country. 
    Cameron, who recalled the Parliament from summer recess, tried to reassure the city's population, saying, "People should be in no doubt that we will do everything 
necessary to restore order to Britain's streets." He told rioters, "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." 
    Parliament will meet on Thursday and there is bound to be a political fallout of this 
widespread lawlessness. The crisis will be a test for the coalition government, accused of making cuts in government spending which infuriated the economically deprived sections. 
    Leaves have been cancelled for the police in London and reinforcements have been brought in from all over the country. Armoured vehicles moved around in some of 
the worst-hit areas but even then it was difficult to deal with the chaos which unfolded in different parts of London, as well as in Bristol, Liverpool and Birmingham. 
    There was no single unifying cause for the rioters. According to officials, what had begun as a protest against the 
killing of Mark Duggan, allegedly shot by the police, had now become an excuse for invading shops and taking away goods. Cops said it was a manifestation of "criminal greed" though some rioters insisted they were opposed to sharp government spending cuts and the proposal to do away with tens of thousands of public sector jobs. 
    But most were attracted simply by the opportunity for violence. "Come join the fun!" shouted a man in Hackney, east London. 
    All London police holding cells were full and prisoners were being shifted outside the city, officials said. Among those charged was an 11-yearold. Even Twitter was being monitored. The police issued warnings that those who posted messages inciting others could face arrest. 
    Notably, boroughs where Indians or Indian-origin people are largely settled have been relatively peaceful. West London suburbs of Southall and Hounslow, Harrow and Wembley in the north-west and Leicester in the East Midlands of England did not report any violence.

A property on fire near Reeves Corner in Croydon, south London


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