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The London Riots

6:15 PM, Aug 9, 2011 • By ALEX DELLA ROCCHETTA
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The riots in the United Kingdom continue for a fourth straight day. On Tuesday, Londoners awoke to torched cars and street scuffles in Ealing, police horses lining up in Lewisham, and stores and residences in flames in Tottenham. Prosperous boroughs in the capital now resemble war zones, as mobs continue to overwhelm police and loot stores. In the last twenty-four hours, disorder has also spread to cities across England, including Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, and Nottingham.

♦ The riots were sparked in response to the August 4th killing of Mark Duggan, 29, who was shot and killed by police in the London neighborhood of Tottenham during an anti-firearms operation. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has since announced that two shots were fired by the police. Results of subsequent ballistics tests show that no shots were fired from the gun found at the scene. However, BBC News reports that the “firearms officers discharged their weapons in the belief there was a threat to human life.” 

♦ On Saturday morning, over 300 people congregated outside the Tottenham police station after marching from Broadwater Farm estate, demanding "justice" for Duggan. What began as a peaceful protest quickly turned violent as bottles were thrown at law enforcement vehicles nearby. Local Territorial Support Group riot officers and police on horseback were deployed to disperse the crowds, before being assailed by bottles and fireworks.

♦ Flash riots and looting were reported throughout Saturday night into Sunday morning, as thieves filled shopping carts with stolen merchandise from local shops. A double-decker bus was torched and petrol bombs were hurled at buildings in Tottenham.

♦ By Monday, fires burned in Croydon, Lewisham, Peckham, Ealing, and Hackney. Representatives for Scotland Yard stated that copycat criminal activity had been taking place across London. An official statement declared that "small and mobile groups" of looters were targeting areas of north, east, and south London. While police scoured networks like Facebook and Twitter for clues on impending looting raids, they missed much of the organization on Blackberry Messenger.

♦ On Tuesday, Prime Minister David Cameron returned to London, after cutting short his holiday. In a statement at 10 Downing, Cameron announced an increase in police numbers (to about 16,000 strong) as well as the recall of Parliament.

♦ Home Secretary Theresa May is said to be considering the use of water cannons or rubber bullets, the imposition of a curfew, or the possibility of bringing in the army to quell disorder. 

Alex Della Rocchetta is a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute.

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