A violent riot erupted in north London on Saturday evening, as crowds gathered outside a police station on Tottenham High Road to protest the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old father of four who was killed by a police officer on Thursday. The protest began peacefully, but as the evening progressed, the assembled people began to loot stores and banks, and set police cars ablaze.
Police were sent out to contain the riots, but by early Sunday morning, the violence was spiraling out of control. The New York Times described the scene as a “pitched battle between lines of riot police officers, some on horses, and hundreds of mostly young black men, in small gangs of four or five, many with hooded sweatshirts pulled over their heads and bandannas over their faces.”
London officials say that 48 arrests have been made so far, and that 26 police officers were injured. A police commander explained the events by saying that a peaceful vigil had been taken over by “mindless criminal thugs,” but people who observed or participated in the riot said that Duggan’s death was the spark for the simmering discontent of Britain’s urban poor. A similar riot exploded in London in 1985, during which a police officer was hacked to death. At the time, many say that government officials did not adequately address the social issues underlying the violence.
For now, people in north London are trying to pick up the pieces. Many are wondering why the violence was not effectively contained, in addition to questioning why it happened in the first place.
“In Tottenham so much has happened with the young people and the police there’s a lot of animosity,” explained a local youth worker. ”The police harass young people. the way they speak to them it’s sometimes a bit disgraceful. You have these kind of situations, sometimes you get racial slurs from police officers.”
Some of the toughest questions are about the next steps. Where should officials go from here? And, perhaps most disturbingly, is there anything stopping riots like these from happening in other parts of Britain?
Photo from Christophe Maximin via flickr.
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