Croydon, Surrey: London Riots: Ordinary Communities Consumed By Fire

12 Aug


A murder investigation has been launched following the death of a man who was attacked during riots in London earlier this week.

 Ealing - Man assaulted during riots

Ealing – Man assaulted during riots

The Metropolitan Police in London have begun a murder investigation following the death of a man who was attacked during riots in the west of the city earlier this week.

Richard Bowes, 68, had been trying to stamp out a fire in Ealing when he was assaulted. He died in hospital last night.

No serious incidents were reported for a second successive night following four previous nights of rioting and looting.

Some 16,000 officers were on duty in London overnight, with a similar number expected on the streets over the weekend.

Another wave of rioters and looters will today face charges in the courts today as measures to prevent a repeat of this week’s violent scenes are discussed by the British government and senior officials.

One of Britain’s most senior police officers has rejected Prime Minister David Cameron’s criticism of the initial tactics used by officers to deal with the rioting.

Mr Cameron told Westminster MPs yesterday that too few officers had initially been deployed and police had treated the situation as a public order issue rather than as a criminal matter.

However, Hugh Orde, the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, and a former PSNI chief constable, said the forces had learned and reacted quickly.

More than 1,500 people have now been arrested by forces in towns and cities hit by chaos and destruction earlier this week and more than 500 charged with offences related to the four days of disorder.

Mr Cameron will chair a meeting of the British government’s emergency committee Cobra this morning, a day after vowing to do ‘whatever it takes’ to restore order to the streets.

In an emergency statement to the recalled House of Commons yesterday, he set out a range of moves being examined in response to the situation, including the use of curfews and temporary curbs on the use of social media.

Mr Cameron also suggested sentencing could be toughened and more action taken against gangs as well as a raft of measure to help damaged businesses and communities recover, including new funds totalling £30m.

According to the latest figures released by forces, Scotland Yard has made 1,009 arrests in London, with 464 charged.

West Midlands Police said 445 people had been arrested in connection with the disorder. with officers executing warrants overnight to bring more looters and rioters to justice.

Greater Manchester Police said they had made 147 arrests and more than 70 people had already gone through the courts, while Merseyside Police said they had made 77 arrests and charged 45 people.

Nottinghamshire Police said they had arrested 109 people and charged 69.

Appeal for Tottenham shooting witnesses

Meanwhile investigators examining the circumstances surrounding the death of a man shot by police, in an incident which acted as a trigger for the first night’s rioting in Tottenham, appealed for witnesses.

Father-of-four Mark Duggan, 29, died after being shot in the chest last Thursday.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is appealing for witnesses who may have seen or heard anything to come forward.

Attacked student has no ill-feelings

A Malaysian student mugged in London says he is determined to stay in Britain as officers continued to question one of his suspected attackers.

Ashraf Rossli, 20, who was rushed to hospital with a broken jaw after being set upon during London’s riots less than a month after arriving in Britain, also thanked the public for their support.

Mr Rossli spoke to reporters as a man in his 20s was being questioned by Scotland Yard on suspicion of robbery.

The attack prompted widespread anger after police said hooded youths initially pretended to help him before going through his rucksack, stealing his mobile phone and wallet in Barking in the east of the city on Monday night.

He was discharged from hospital yesterday and, at a press conference, said he harboured no grudges.

He said: ‘My family are worried about me and my mother would like me to go home. But I am determined to stay.

‘Britain is great. Before I came here I was very eager and I haven’t got any ill-feelings about what happened.

Mr Cameron said the attack left him ‘disgusted’.

Mr Rossli said he appreciated Mr Cameron’s support but added he did not want to comment on the Prime Minister’s description of a ‘sick society’.




Maurice Reeves, the owner of a family-run furniture store, stands outside his shop on Aug. 9, 2011. The House of Reeves was destroyed during the riots in Croydon.

It took 140 years to build up the House of Reeves furniture store, but only a few hours to destroy it. On Aug. 9, the morning after arsonists left the Croydon landmark in ruins, its owner put on a brave face for reporters.

“It’s been there since 1867, survived two wars, a depression. Yet the community seems to have burned it down,” Maurice Reeves told news crews. “I’m 80 years old. It was my wedding anniversary yesterday. I don’t know how I’m here today, but I am.” On Aug. 10, Reeves paced around the wreckage — red bricks charred black, wooden planks split like toothpicks — but kept his eyes glued to the asphalt.

Then, when a yellow bulldozer emblazoned with the word “Demolition” pulled up, Reeves walked away.

For a town recovering from the worst violence since bombs rained down during World War II, the destruction of the House of Reeves symbolizes the mindless thuggery that engulfed Croydon as well as cities and towns across England. Millions watched the Croydon blaze grow larger on live television; police couldn’t ensure that the mob wouldn’t attack the fire crews, so the firefighters were delayed and arrived too late to save the store.

Amy Weston—
An unidentified woman is seen perched on the edge of a burning building on Surrey Street in Croydon, England, on Aug. 8, 2011.

Read more:

Rumors spread from neighbor to neighbor that the rioters had torched the building to distract authorities from the looting taking place in the town’s shopping district. For two decades, Kim Watkinson, a secretary, worked six doors down from the furniture store. She locked herself in her house that evening. “I was watching TV and thinking, If the wind changes, my office will be burned to pieces.”

(See pictures of the London riots.)

She can count herself among the lucky ones. The fire stopped well short of her office and the nearby Croydon Parish Church. But elsewhere, vandals set homes alight, leaving 28 people homeless. In the town’s busiest shopping district, hooligans — many of them young women — ransacked a computer store and torched cars. Sociologists have theorized that social exclusion fueled their rampage, and some Labour politicians have pointed the finger at spending cuts. But the onlookers surveying the damage at the House of Reeves attribute the destruction to something sinister in the looters themselves. “My 9-year-old granddaughter said, ‘Granny, what possesses these people to do things like this?’ ” Marilyn, a 60-year-old resident remembers. “I said to her, ‘They’re savages.’ There’s no other word.”

As Maurice Reeves surveyed the damage one final time ahead of the demolition, the streets leading to the wreckage seemed unusually quiet. Locals say the gaggle of teenagers and 20-somethings that usually loiters on the street corners and near fried-chicken shops has thinned in the wake of the riots. “It’s quite noticeable,” says Francis, who doesn’t want to give her last name for fear of reprisals. “They’ll keep their heads down for a couple of days, and then they’ll come out with their new trainers and new phones, won’t they?”

(See how Britain’s riots harmed its music industry.)

It’s more of a statement than a question, and underscores the skepticism many have about the police’s ability to control the country’s youth. “The police were absolutely useless,” says Malcolm Carter, a street sweeper who has spent much of the past two days cleaning up the mess. “Two hundred kids ruled the police in Croydon. The police are scared of them.” Sure, 16,000 police swelled the streets of London on Aug. 9 — up from 6,000 the previous night. And it’s now clear that the show of force helped reinstate a degree of calm. But when police ranks inevitably thin, vigilantes may need to keep the peace using chains and cricket bats. On the two nights after the fire, up to 50 men assembled at a pub in Croydon at sunset to prepare for the worst. “If they come down here, they’ll be at them,” Carter says. “They’re going to do what the police won’t and take the law into their own hands.”

(See “How to Stop the U.K. Riots: 8 Answers from an Expert.”)

The majority of residents endorse less-extreme solutions. Some suggested pelting rioters with paintballs so they could later be identified. Others want a curfew in place that would discourage onlookers from taking photos of the chaos — and help police identify the true threats. Joanne, 47, who sells flowers at the Surrey Street Market, believes the police have done well with limited resources but says the time has come to “batter them all out of the way.” “I think they should bring the army in,” she says, passing lavender thistle to a customer. “They should bring in plastic bullets too.”

Worryingly, the rioters have their supporters. On a small alley off Croydon High Street, not far from a ransacked electronics shop, the hum of Jamaican music leads to a Bob Marley tribute store. A shopkeeper inside says he sympathizes with those lashing out at the government officials and bankers who “are earning more money and buying bigger yachts” while the underclasses struggle to get by. “David Cameron and these bankers, they are devil worshippers. Money is their god,” he says. “There will be more riots. You remember the French Revolution? The Russian Revolution? People killed all their leaders. That’s going to happen here.”

See “As Riots Spread Beyond London, Cameron Tries On an Iron Fist.”

See “London Riots: Why the Violence Is Spreading Across England.”

British PM: Police waited too long to act  on Digg


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