The riots in London continued for a third night, causing British Prime Minister David Cameron to cut his vacation in Italy short and return to deal with the expanding chaos. Disorder spread to Birmingham and Liverpool, and a man was shot dead amidst chaos in Croydon, a borough in South London. In response to the burgeoning crisis, Cameron recalled Parliament from its summer recess and increased the number of police on the streets from 6,000 to 16,000.
Cameron denounced the “sickening scenes of people looting, vandalizing, thieving, robbing,” and 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.” According to London’s Metropolitan police, over 500 people have been arrested and 100 have been charged.
The maker of BlackBerry smartphones said that they will cooperate with police as they investigate allegations that the BlackBerry Messenger service played a key role in organizing the riots. The destruction is increasingly devastating. The BBC reports that police cars were “wrecked by youths armed with wooden poles and metal bars, while looters smashed their way into shops before police dispersed them.”
Buildings were set alight in various London neighborhoods, while “copycat crime” created disorder in Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham and Bristol. The mayor of London was heckled during a press conference as people demanded to know why such chaos was being tolerated. ”But where were [the police]?” one woman shouted. “By 5pm we knew they were going to hit. I was in my salon when a brick came through the window, and no one was there to defend me”.
NPR reports, via the BBC, the scene on on a London street: “I was talking to one young man who had received on his BlackBerry a list of places where he said there will be further trouble tonight. He didn’t tell me which places and stressed it is speculation. But he and a friend told me frustration with poverty in the area was boiling over.”
Will these new measures prevent riots from occurring again tonight? It’s already late afternoon in London, so we’ll soon see whether Cameron’s return will make a difference.
Photo from hozinja via Wikimedia Commons.