x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Extra police quell riots in London but violence spreads elsewhere

Thousands of extra police officers move into London and quell the violence there but trouble spreads to other cities in England.

LONDON // Political tempers began to fray yesterday amid finger-pointing over whether deprivation or criminality is to blame for rioting across England.

Thousands of extra police officers flooded into London on Tuesday and largely put an end to the violence.

They were joined by "vigilante" communities, from Bangladeshis to Sikhs, who turned out in their hundreds to protect their neighbourhoods and places of worship.

Attention switched to Manchester and Liverpool, where the violence spread on Tuesday night.

In Birmingham, police opened a murder inquiry into the deaths of three British Muslims who died after being hit by a car near a mosque.

Community leaders sought to defuse tension among British Asians after the apparent hit-and-run killings of brothers Shazad and Munir Hussein and Haroon Chohan.

They were among about 80 people who tried to protect local businesses on Tuesday night.

Jahan Chohan, Haroon's father, spoke of forgiveness. "I don't blame the government, I don't blame the police, I don't blame nobody," he told The Guardian.

"I'm a Muslim, I believe in divine fate and destiny, and it was his destiny and his fate, and now he's gone. And may Allah forgive him and bless him."

Unlike recent unrest in Greece or the Arab world, the British rioters appeared to have no political message. Most seem to be young males from poorer neighbourhoods.

Ahead of an emergency parliamentary debate today, prime minister David Cameron said his government had started a "fightback" against the rioters.

"For me, the root cause of this mindless selfishness is the same thing I have spoken about for years," he said. "It is a complete lack of responsibility in parts of our society."

But the Conservative leader sidestepped a call from London mayor Boris Johnson, who agreed with his party leader that Britain is "broken" but said police budget cuts across the country should be abandoned.

"Mayors and local authorities always want more money," said Mr Cameron. "It is the government's job to give them what they need."

He added that police were authorised to use rubber bullets and water cannons, which have never been used for riot control, would be made available at 24 hours' notice.

"Phony human-rights" issues will not stop the police publishing CCTV pictures of looters, said Mr Cameron. Police have arrested more than 750 people in London and 500 others across the country since the unrest began on Saturday.

It kicked off following a protest against the police shooting dead Mark Duggan, 29.

All three main political parties have largely blamed criminality for the unrest, in which youths of all races looted shops, burnt property and attacked police.

But in a sign of the political fallout yet to come, two opposing lawmakers had a fierce argument over whether public sector cuts had any role in the unrest.

"There will be discussions about underlying causes. I don't agree with Cameron when he says it is simple. It is not. It is very complex," Harriet Harman, a leading member of the opposition Labour party, said on BBC's Newsnight. "Harriet, do you think there are people breaking into Currys [electrical stores] to steal plasma TV screens and breaking into Foot Locker [sports stores] to steal box-fresh trainers who are protesting against tuition fees," retorted Michael Gove, Conservative education secretary.

Ordinary Londoners, sometimes rallied by the same social media used by rioters to congregate en masse, have started to clean up and protect their neighbourhoods.

A crowd of about 1,500 mostly British Bangladeshis and Somalis gathered outside the East London Mosque after a mob gathered to loot shops in the area on Monday night. "There's a real sense of community here, especially during Ramadan when people are supposed to look out for each other," Abdul Jalil, a local shop manager, told The Independent newspaper.

Sikhs in Southall, west London, and Turks in Dalston, north London, were also out on the streets to protect their shops and property.

There were warnings against vigilantism however, as members of far-right, anti-immigrant groups such as the English Defence League also assembled, ostensibly in defence against looters. Mr Johnson said while people were entitled to defend their neighbourhoods, he was against the participation of groups that targeted other communities.

sdevi@thenational.ae