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Europe on MSNBC dot com: 26 cops hurt, dozens arrested after riot in Tottenham area of London

26 cops hurt, dozens arrested after riot in Tottenham area of London
from Europe on MSNBC.com, August 7, 2011

The Associated Press, Reuters, NBC News and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

Rioters set double-decker bus and police cars ablaze; widespread looting reported

LONDON —
Dozens of
people
were arrested and 26 police officers were injured in London after a street protest over a fatal shooting by police turned violent on Saturday.

At least 200 rioters threw Molotov cocktails and battled police in the economically deprived Tottenham area, setting patrol cars, buildings and a double-decker bus on fire. It was some of the worst disorder seen in the British capital for recent years.

The protest came after a 29-year-old father of four was killed after an apparent exchange of gunfire with police on Thursday. Demonstrators gathered gathered outside Tottenham Police Station to demand “justice” for Mark Duggan.

‘An absolute war zone’ 

Hours later, rioters smashed windows and looted buildings including banks, shops and a supermarket. Firefighters were called to “dozens” of blazes overnight, Sky News reported.

Mounted police and riot officers on foot in turn charged the crowd to push them back.

One person at the scene, who gave his name to the BBC as Tim, said: “It’s an absolute war zone.”

Firefighters initially could not reach a blazing shop blocked by the disorder. A woman who lives above the shop told reporters she was briefly trapped with her baby by the blaze and mayhem.

Looters were seen pushing carts full of stolen goods, theTelegraph reported. Some of the rioters were said to look as young as 7 to 10 years old. They were fleeing with looted TVs and stereos, the Guardian said.

Police dealt with pockets of trouble more than 10 hours after the rioting began, according to NBC News.

Sky News reported Sunday that 42 people had been arrested in connection with the disorder.

Scotland Yard police Commander Adrian Hanstock told reporters that a peaceful vigil has been hijacked by “mindless criminal thugs.”

Earlier Sunday, police Commander Stephen Watson described the unrest as “distressing.”

In a statement, he said that police “are aware of raised tensions … which are understandable following the tragic death.”

On the north side of Tottenham High Road on Saturday night, one rioter told the UK’s Channel 4 News that he was “here to tell the police they can’t abuse us, harass us. We won’t put up with it, this is just the beginning, this is war, and this is what you get — fire.”

The BBC reported that its TV news crew and satellite truck came under attack from youths. Sky News also said it was forced to temporarily withdraw camera crews from the area as the situation became increasingly volatile early Sunday.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron branded the rioting as “utterly unacceptable.”

“There is no justification for the aggression the police and the public faced, or for the damage to property,” the spokesman told the BBC.

Widespread looting was also reported Sunday morning in the nearby Wood Green district of north London.

Duggan, whose death sparked the violence, had been in a taxi when it was stopped by armed officers as part of a pre-planned operation on Thursday. One police officer escaped unhurt after a bullet struck his radio. Duggan’s death is being investigated by the independent police watchdog.

Racial tension
Tottenham has a large number of ethnic minorities and includes areas with the highest unemployment rates in London. It also has a history of racial tension with local young people, especially blacks, resenting police behavior including the use of stop and search powers.

The disorder was very close to where one of Britain’s most notorious race riots occurred just over 25 years ago.

In 1985, police officer Keith Blakelock was hacked to death on the deprived Broadwater Farm housing estate during rioting in which around 500 mainly black youths rampaged through the streets, assaulting police, looting and setting fires.

Classford Stirling, a youth worker from Broadwater Farm, said there had been growing anger recently over stop and search practices by police. “It wasn’t just black kids. It was the youth in general who are frustrated at the way the police are treating them,” he told BBC TV.

“Everybody’s now thinking of the way Mr Duggan was shot and they want answers. It’s very difficult to turn round and say to them this is the wrong way because they believe this is the only way that they’re going to get attention.”

London also saw riots at the end of last year when protests against government plans to raise tuition fees for university students in the center of London turned violent with police and government buildings attacked.

During the most serious disturbances last December, rioters targeted the limousine belonging to heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, kicking its doors, cracking a window and reportedly jabbing Camilla with a stick.

The Associated Press, Reuters, NBC News and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

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