(Photo: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)
A street cleaner hoses down the street around burned out mini cars set alight during riots in Hackney in London Aug. 9, 2011.
Since Mark Duggan was shot dead by the police last week, violent clashes between groups of young people and the police have marked the British domestic news. The clashes were soon followed by the looting of shops, the setting on fire of vehicles and buildings, and lately a few attacks on civilians have also been reported. On Tuesday, while violent clashes and lootings diminished in London, cities like Birmingham and Manchester took over with various new incidents reported in the media.
Following three days of unrest, thousands of extra police officers were deployed to London bringing the total number of officers to 16,000 in the capital alone and Tuesday night was visibly calmer.
Commenting on the situation, Tim Godwin, the acting police commissioner told reporters "We will be very robustly policing. We will pursue each and every one that's involved. There were far too many young people on the streets of London last night, in places which were both dangerous and violent."
And in London, at least, the police were very present in the street, with officers and police vans scattered around the city. While the atmosphere in the capital was still quite tense, people continued to get on with their life, and in Hackney for example the streets were calm, children still playing in the parks and insecurity did not appear to take over people's life.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, David Cameron cut short his holidays following the unrest and spoke to reporters outside of Downing Street on Tuesday, announcing the House of Commons will hold an emergency session on Aug. 11.
"I'm determined, the government is determined, that justice will be done," Cameron said. "This is criminality pure and simple, and it has to be confronted and defeated."
"People should be in no doubt that we will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain's streets and make them safe for the law-abiding," the Prime Minister added.
On Wednesday Cameron once again spoke to reporters, saying that major police operations were underway to arrest the rioters and looters and announced that while not required for now, water cannons would be made available to the police on a 24h notice.
The Prime Minister talked about a 'gang problem' which had been going on for far too long. Those who looted shops while laughing are 'sick' he said, adding the problem was as much of a moral as a political one.
While Cameron also blamed part of the problem on a lack of parenting and lack of discipline there was no mention of the socio-economic problems affecting the areas where some of those rioters come from and how they impact on the communities.
One point that Cameron made however, and that maybe should have been stressed a little bit more was that it is the job of the police to police the streets.
While teams of civilians, launching 'clean-up' operations can be nothing but praised, some alarming reports of civilians forming groups that patrolled the streets pursuing rioters are more worrying. Contrary to everyday people, the police have been trained to handle difficult situations, and the powers that have been given to them by the government should not be conferred to the rest of the population. Justice should be done but revenge on the other hand is quite different.
"We're going to stop the riots - police obviously can't handle it," Stephen Lennon, leader of the far-right English Defense League, told The Associated Press , adding he could not guarantee there would not be violent clashes with rioting youths.
Clearly communities from all over London have been affected by the last days, and more violence from within will not help solve the problem. Most of the young people are not criminals and ostracising them will only create further divides. Communication between the youngsters and their elder counterparts should be a point of focus for now as messages condemning the attacks and highlighting the consequences of committing criminal offences need to be widely conveyed.
To read more on the subject please click here: London Riots: Sheer Criminality--Signs of social Breakdown?
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