London Riots Spread from Tottenham

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London suffered some of its worst riots for years over the weekend, as hundreds of people clashed with police in areas of North and South London. Shop windows were smashed, cars and buildings set on fire and stores looted after a peaceful protest on Saturday turned violent.

How it Started

The seeds of the riots were sown last Thursday, when a 29-year-old man named Mark Duggan was shot dead by the police in Tottenham Hale, North London. The exact details of the event are still unclear but it was initially claimed that he opened fire on the police, forcing them to retaliate. However, family and friends rejected this version of events, and on Saturday organised a protest of around 200 people who marched on Tottenham police station demanding answers.

What started out as a peaceful protest led by community members, quickly descended in to chaos, as hundreds of others joined, with the clear intention of using the protest as an excuse for violence. As tempers flared, two police cars were set on fire, marking the start of a night of destruction which quickly escalated. By midnight on Saturday, dozens of shops in the local area had been broken in to and burgled, and a number of buildings and a double-decker bus had been set alight.

Police started to gain some control of the area but the rioters simply spread out, moving to a nearby retail park where they looted TVs, stereos, sports equipment and mobile phones. Whilst there was still a vague sense of injustice felt by the rioters over Mark Duggan's shooting, the original protesters were long gone and an underlying feeling of anger and dissatisfaction was now the driving force behind the violence.

Second Night of Riots

After day broke on Sunday the violence had eventually calmed down and police and local residents were left to survey the destruction. However, the peace didn't last long as London was hit by a second night of rioting once night fell on Sunday (yesterday). This time it was more wide spread but largely without any of the political undertones, as police described the looting and destruction as "copycat criminal activity".

By late Sunday night, the violence had spread from Brixton in the south to Enfield and Islington in the north and Walthamstow to the east, which all experienced similar scenes to those seen in Tottenham the night before. Overall, over 160 arrests have been made and 35 police officers injured, though thankfully there have been no deaths.

"Small and mobile groups"

It is important to realise that although the violence of the riots is shocking, they are very localized and restricted to relatively small areas in north and south London. Indeed, the police have revealed that the violence has been carried out by "small and mobile" groups, whilst the vast majority of the Capital has not been affected.

It is not expected that these riots will escalate much further, and there is now a huge police presence in the troubled areas, fully ready for if more violence does break out.

Image: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

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