News / Europe

British Community Cleans Up After Night of Looting

Store blazes fiercely during looting in the Woolwich district of southeast London August 9, 2011
Store blazes fiercely during looting in the Woolwich district of southeast London August 9, 2011

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British Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday that 16,000 police would be in London Tuesday night to defend the capital from rioters. It comes after three straight days of violent demonstrations in the capital. And it’s not just London that’s been hit.

Sivaharan Kandiah is a shopowner in the north London burrough Hackney. His business was looted Monday night when riots hit the area. He says he watched it happening on the television.


“Eleven years work is gone just like that. I work 80, 90 hours a week and it was just wiped out in one or two hours. Everything was gone. Everything wiped out,” Kandiah said.

Kandiah’s shop is one of many looted in a wave of riots that have raged for three nights now.

It began on Saturday with a peaceful demonstration to mark the death of a 29-year-old man who was reportedly shot dead by police.

That turned into violent upheaval in north London. Since then similar riots have raged across London and beyond the capital in large cities like Birmingham and Liverpool.

Rioters have smashed windows and broken into shops, attacked city buses and set cars and buildings on fire.

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has returned from holiday to deal with the upheaval. He has recalled parliament from its summer recess and says London will be reinforced with thousands of extra police officers in case rioting continues.

That would come as good news for some residents in Hackney. Many said they felt the police had not done enough to protect the area.

Local resident Basani Mabyalane described how she worried for herself and her children.

“I was very, very scared. I felt helpless. And I could see on the TV that the police were doing their best to deal with the situation but I could also see it was something too much for them. I felt scared in that way because I could see that the people who were supposed to protect me were outnumbered or outstretched,” Mabyalane said.

Local teenager Shine said many people had been frightened.  “I guess a lot of the neighborhood people who were in that area all locked their doors because it was quite dangerous with all the fires and all the cars that were exploding,” he said.

The Member of Parliament for Hackney, Diane Abbott, was there Tuesday to speak with her constituents.

She said a curfew may be the best way to contain the situation.

She said there is an underlying cause for the unrest, which is partly social and economic.

“There’s no question that there’s a section of our young people who feel they have absolutely no stake in society, no stake at all and they are also seeing in their wider communities the social capital disappearing,” Abbott said.

Police say they have arrested more than 500 people since the riots began.

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