AS I write this post during my lunch break, more news has come in of continuing mayhem in London and beyond the UK’s capital.
The videos on YouTube and the news are indeed very sad, shocking and mind-boggling. The damage to homes and local small businesses is heartbreaking and downright scary. It will take many a very long time to rebuild their lives.
By all accounts the complete and utter anarchy began as a so-called peaceful protest over the death of a 29-year-old father of four in disputed circumstances. This so-called peaceful protest quickly turned violent and because the police DID NOT act quickly enough, total lawlessness has reigned.
All this happened in London because the people decided to protest in the streets. They may have intended for it to be a peaceful street demonstration, but look what happened. And the fact that the police did not take immediate action to clampdown on the protesters has led the citizens of this civilised capital to show the most uncivilised behaviour.
Street protests claiming to be peaceful can turn ugly and completely out of control in the blink of an eye. Law enforcement officers should prevent things from getting out of control, because if they don’t, things WILL get out of control and the devastating results are hard to come back from.
Let us as peace-loving, harmonious and wise Sarawakians learn from the lessons of London.
A report from The Guardian:
London riots: conflagration and carnage in the capital and beyond
Guardian writers report on the violence in Croydon, Birmingham, Battersea, Lewisham, Kilburn, Liverpool and Camden
- The Guardian, Tuesday 9 August 2011
Several large fires engulfed the centre of Croydon on Monday night as the unrest that has gripped London spread to one of the capital’s most southerly boroughs.
Residents said the trouble started in outlying neighbourhoods at about 7pm with 200 to 300 youths rampaging through the streets looting and setting fire to shops.
At about 9pm, the trouble had spread to the centre of Croydon where the hundred-year-old Reeves furniture shop was set alight sending flames high into the night. Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell said: “I’m sickened to see this happening in my town. My first instinct is sympathy for the businesses and residents who have been directly affected by what’s happened.
“The main building which was seen on fire at Reeves Corner is a family business called Reeves, which has been there for a century, and it’s been completely destroyed.
“The people responsible for this wanton violence need to be brought to justice.”
The fires were so severe that approach roads into Croydon were thick with smoke leaving some residents struggling to see or breathe.
“I have never seen anything like it,” said Mary Wright standing on her doorstep watching a burning car at the bottom of her street. “It started at around 7pm and has not stopped since.”
By 10.30pm the main fires in the centre of Croydon appeared to be under control although helicopters still hovered over the town and police vans with sirens wailing continued to criss cross the town as the unrest continued.
On London Road just north of the centre, several shops had been smashed and looted and two burning cars were left in the middle of the road.
Groups of young men many with their faces covered with masks and scarf pelted police vans with bottles and rocks as they sped past.
Some had collected mounds of rubble to use against the police, others had armfuls of goods they had taken from looted shops.
Riot police were out in force blockading some roads but did not attempt to stop people attacking shops or setting fire to cars.
Barwell said he was trying to speak to the home secretary to call for more funding for the police and fire.
“The Met police and fire brigade need to be given resources from other parts of the country to make sure that another night of this violence does not take place.”
Mike Fisher, leader of Croydon Council, said he was devastated by the unrest. “I am disgusted by the mindless hooliganism displayed by the criminal element that has come to Croydon. This is pure criminal activity by mindless thugs and morons who think it’s acceptable to be able to go out, cause criminal damage and steal from people.”
The first sign of trouble spreading beyond the London area came in Birmingham where up to 200 youths confronted a police cordon in the city centre and shop windows were smashed. Eyewitnesses said that police appeared to have the situation under control and it “does not look like London.” An exclusion zone was established up to half a mile round the Bullring shopping centre which closed early.
Youths wearing hoods and scarves gathered after rumours on social network sites and via texts that things were “going to kick off” in the Midlands city. Bins were thrown through the windows of Jessops, LA Fitness and a McDonald’s but attempts to follow this up by looting as in Tottenham and another parts of the capital were stopped by police.
The West Midlands force said that extra officers had been deployed after tweets and other internet messages spread during the afternoon.
A pub landlord stood on guard at his doors during a brief flurry of missile throwing but by 7.30pm the police appeared to be in control of most of the city centre, with the large Pallisades mall by New Street station also closed and cordoned off.
Youths returned to the centre of Birmingham later, ransacking the local branch of Austin Reed’s whose manager Mike Golden, said: “I got a call from the alarm company saying intruders had broken into the shop. I thought it was strange for the time of day.
“I’ve been on holiday for two weeks and didn’t know much about the riots in London. When I got into town I saw the riot police and knew what had happened. They are using what happened in London as an excuse for this behaviour.”
Trouble spread when the original large group of youths dispersed and attacked shops outside the main cordon. Both the T-Mobile and Orange stores near New Street were attacked and passersby were beaten and robbed. Crowds of onlookers drawn by media reports and social networks watched from the fringes, many with children and toddlers in pushchairs.
Among the damaged shops were a Sainsbury’s Local, Addidas, JD Sports, Primark, T-Mobile and stationary shop Savers, which is located yards away from Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Jamie’s Italian.
Shocked diners at Wagamamas and Jamie’s Italian stopped eating to stand up and look at the riots in progress.
Dozens of youths started the night’s violence on St John’s Road at just after nine o’clock when they ransacked a Curry’s electronic store. They were joined by dozens of others, many with black hoods and scarves after a small number of riot police left the scene half an hour earlier when they came under light bombardment from projectiles.
Onlookers and locals identified many of those present as “blues, yellows and reds”, members of local gangs who they said had called a truce for the evening. Along St John’s Road the windows of other stores were smashed.
The gangs ran along the road and at one point a middle-aged man and his wife pointed in the direction of a jewellers further up the road and other potential targets.
Less than 30 metres away dozens of revellers stood outside a local pub drinking beer and looking on. As it became apparent after 20 minutes of looting that the police were not coming back the looters were joined by many more. Hundreds of looters helped themselves on Clapham Junction’s main shopping street.
For close to two hours masked youths had the freedom to pillage St John’s Road targeting JD Sports, Curry’s, Footlocker and Debenhams. Curry’s was first when dozens of youths kicked in the metal shutters after a small group of riot police left the area shortly before 9pm. The looting went on there for 40 minutes until one man who had been in a local pub waded in and succeeded in dispersing the crowd.
He was punched and at one point caught a chair that was thrown at him but managed to push the dozens of youths further down the street.
“I don’t care but I just think this type of thing is disgraceful and I have to do something about it,” said the man who gave his name as Ralph and said he lived in south London.
Local people at the scene identified many of the youths as members of local gangs and said that those wearing scarves of different colours meant that they were from local gangs.
The looters then turned their attentions to JD Sports, Footlocker and Debenhams. It was not until 10.30pm that two police vans drove down Northcote Road at high speed sending hundreds of people sprinting in all directions.
Inside the street some people had gathered with cars and had loaded the car boots with games.
After the first police intervention two more vans with less than a dozen police and two dogs came down the street from a different direction and cleared the area.
However, they didn’t stay and late on Monday night youths were beginning to congregate again in the intersection of Clapham Junction.
Lewisham, a suburb of south-east London blighted by serious deprivation and unsympathetic post-war planning which turned much of its centre into a one-way gyratory, experienced a few hours of trouble on Monday although it was quiet after several hours. The centre was sealed off and police said the damage was not too serious.
“They’re testing us,” an inspector said. “This wasn’t the real thing.”
Later looting spread out towards Catford in the evening and the main road, for a time, appeared to be in apparent control of groups of youths with no police in sight. Several shop windows were broken and alarms rang out. But the damage appeared unfocused – one shop targeted was an optician – and chaotic.
A police inspector talking into his radio said that the trouble in Catford was the work of 150 people at most. “But the trouble is, they’re so mobile,” he told his boss. “You clear them out and they pop up somewhere else.”
About half a mile from the main area of trouble, with police occupied elsewhere, a small group of young men decided to kick down the door of a Halfords store, in full view of the busy South Circular road. As they tried and tried – the shutters were tough – a crowd formed, and cars stopped. One young woman leaned out of her car, laughing: “Satnav! I want a satnav!” she yelled at them.”
Around 20 youths were arrested in Kilburn, north west London, on Monday evening according to local businessmen.
Eye witnesses said that some of the group were wearing balaclavas and tights over their faces when they were confronted by police at around 7.30pm.
One cafe owner said: “The police took some of them down a side road and forced them to line up against a wall. A woman with the boys was screaming at the police. There must have been four police vans,” he said.
The owner said he believed that police had apprehended the youths as a precautionary measure. “I don’t think they had done anything wrong. But they had their faces covered. It was obvious what they were planning to do,” he said.
Restaurants and other local businesses were warned that there could be trouble following the arrests. One owner of an off licence said: “I’m closing up and hope the place is still here tomorrow.” The Tricycle theatre suspended its film show after receiving advice from police.
Along the High Road, groups of youths, some with bull terrier dogs, stood on street corners. One group declined to say why they were there.
Scotland Yard could not be contacted to confirm the arrests on Monday.
Violence also broke out in Liverpool with police dealing with “a number of isolated outbreaks of disorder” in the south of the city, Merseyside police said.
Cars had been set alight and there had been reports of criminal damage. A spokeswoman said: “Officers are dealing with a number of isolated outbreaks of disorder in the south Liverpool area … officers were deployed to the area to deal with the incidents and the force is dealing with its partners and other members of the emergency services.”
A number of police officers were also sent to Camden in north London, setting up a series of cordons following reports of trouble. Uniformed officers and riot police were patrolling on the streets near Camden Lock with some masked youths also seen in the area.