Riots and vandalism have broken out in many cities and towns in England. Many of the people involved in the criminality and looting are teenagers with over half those arrested being under 20. Politicians have had to change their holiday plans as Parliament has been recalled. This is something that very rarely happens.
The troubles began in Tottenham, north London on Saturday 6th August. The previous Thursday a man, Mark Duggan, had been shot dead by police who were trying to arrest him. What actually happened is subject to an enquiry and therefore cannot as yet be commented on. However on the Saturday there was a peaceful march in protest at the shooting. It is important to remember that police are not normally armed in the UK, and it is very rare for armed police to be involved in this type of event. The march was hijacked by thugs and criminals who set fire to cars, buses and shops. Looting was also widespread with television showing youths carrying off TVs and other luxury goods. The police were unable to control the crowds of youths who used mobiles to keep in touch with each other and to learn where the police were.
On Sunday evening there seemed to be copycat fires and looting in other areas of London. These seemed to have nothing to do with the original grievance against the police about the shooting. By Monday the problems had spread to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol. Tuesday evening there were further troubles in these cities and also Nottingham and Gloucester. Although nobody thinks that what has happened can in any way be acceptable, some people think that youth unemployment and not feeling part of society has lead to a sort of frustration.
On Tuesday evening in response to criticism the police flooded London with 16,000 police officers brought in from surrounding areas. All police leave has also been cancelled as well. On Monday there had only been 6,000 on duty. This appears to have contained the problems in London. The police have been criticised in recent years for their robust policing of demonstrations. It seems that this time they were less physical which allowed things to get completely out of control. There has also been criticism of the attitude of the police to the black community. Television seemed to show that the majority of the initial trouble makers were from the immigrant community. In recent months there have been a number of gang shootings and stabbings in the black community. In response to this the police have been using their powers to ‘stop and search’ and the black community is upset that they seem to be picked on.
The events have affected sporting fixtures. Wednesday’s international football game with Holland was called off and some league and cup games were also postponed. Some of the England football players have twittered their dismay and disgust with what has happened. Newspapers are also showing pictures of the looters and asking for readers to identify them.