By Heather Sandlin
LONDON, England — As violence escalates across England tonight, it seems this is a movement that has gathered too much momentum to stop.
A series of rioting over the past four days has resulted in the looting of hundreds of shops, the burning of many homes, businesses and vehicles, and numerous injuries among both police officers and civilians.
What began as an individual protest against the Metropolitan Police has now turned to what many see as an expression of general disgruntlement, anger at the government, boredom among youths and even anarchism, reflected by the modern anarchy uniform of dark hoodies and scarves covering the faces of rioters.
Together, the nation has condemned the violence that has destroyed communities this week.
Jumoke Fashola, a London resident, said on Twitter, “As a Peckham resident I am appalled, as a Londoner I am devastated, as a champion of youth I am saddened.”
Another, Lulu Rose, wrote, ‘The Youth of the Middle East rise up for basic freedoms. The Youth of London rise up for a HD ready 42″ Plasma TV,” a reference to the mass looting that occurred in the wake of the vandalism.
The situation has been a great struggle to contain, as police forces attempting to control rioters have been strained and outnumbered.
However, tonight police numbers have grown by 16,000 as 30 new forces have been drafted into the capital to help control fresh disturbances across London.
All officers on leave have been urgently called to the many scenes tonight, and now police claim that riot movements have been initiated through the use of ‘Blackberry Messenger,’ a mobile messaging service that goes undetected by the police.
This, and other networks such as Twitter, has allowed rioters to coordinate and correspond their movements between one another, a reflection on the profound impact of technology in the modern world.
While police attempt to trace other phones of rioters, they have released 12 pictures, with more to come, of rioters to be identified by the public.
At this time, they have also arrested over 700 rioters, and the BBC has reported that every single police cell in London has been filled, with no doubt more arrests to be made up and down the country tonight as arson attacks begin in Manchester.
Violence has not only been confined to buildings and vehicles; physical attacks have grown in number.
This includes attacks on a TV cameraman, a young teenager who, while collapsed on the pavement, was mugged by passing rioters, and at least 37 police officers. That is a figure which will undoubtedly change.
Although there is no confirmation of a connection to the rioting, a 26-year-old man who was found shot has died in hospital today, officials said. The young man was discovered in a car in Croydon, where riots were believed to have been the most violent in the city.
This drama began during a protest outside the local police station in Tottenham against the police shooting of Mark Duggan, 29, on Thursday, Aug. 4. Locals were angered by the killing of this father of three, whom the police were attempting to arrest, and demanded ‘justice’ for his family.
As this initially peaceful demonstration ensued, violence erupted as two police cars were set alight and bottled. Riot officers at the scene were attacked, a double-decker bus set alight, and local shops were quickly vandalized, according to numerous reports.
David Lammy, the local Member of Parliament for Tottenham, referred to the rioters of this night as “mindless, mindless people.”
It is also in this area that looting, primarily shops with electronic goods, began. Looting has since spread to many more shops, with images of people carrying armfuls of clothes, alcohol, cigarettes, even medication, out of stores.
Riots spread further afield the following day as new reports came in from Enfield, a North London borough also subject to smashed shops and looting as violence spread.
What is more shocking, however, is the age of those involved in the initial and continuing riots. Children as young as eight have been caught looting shops and an 11-year-old boy was arrested in Croydon last night.
Paul Tilsey, the deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, tonight said, “Know where your kids are, know what your kids are doing, because you’re responsible for them as a parent’ after witnessing groups of young children rioting in the center of Birmingham.
Following the violence in North London, disturbances continued to spread over the next two days, with disturbances in Islington, Lewisham, Oxford Circus, Walthamstow, Clapham, Camden, Peckham and Brixton.
Fresh upstarts occurred in Hackney when a youth was stopped and searched by police, and Croydon, Ealing and Woolwich were the next boroughs to be affected by this fast-spreading trouble.
Today, the violence has spread further, with riots starting up in Birmingham, Bristol, Nottingham and Liverpool, some of England’s largest cities.
As some question the impact of the riots on next year’s Olympics, the capital has gone into lockdown, with many businesses and offices closing early today.
I was sent home from an internship for fear of the riots spreading into the center of London.
Buses and trains around the affected areas have halted service, while in other stations security is extremely high, with commuters being told to ‘stay vigilant’ at all times.
Parts of the city have been closed off.
One friend told me that last night it proved impossible to return home because police blocked the road. There were sirens and buildings on fire, she said.
Though many UK residents now face an uncertain future over their businesses and communities, as well as their own houses, thanks to Twitter a ‘clean up’ campaign has been launched in London today, with hundreds of residents taking to the streets with brooms and gloves, a touching move, even a retaliation of sorts, against the destruction of those intent on causing havoc.
Politicians, meanwhile, have reacted to the crisis quickly as Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Ed Miliband and David Cameron, who have all publicly condemned the violence, return early from their holidays, with the prime minister travelling to Croydon today to inspect the damage.
Cameron met with the fire crews and stressed to the media that the police would take tough stands against any rioters.
“This is criminality, pure and simple, and it has to be confronted and defeated,” he said, and reassured citizens that “we will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain’s streets and to make them safe for the law-abiding.”
With the increase of police numbers, it is hoped that the attempt to control disturbances will be more effective. The determination of the forces is undoubtedly strong, with certain officers being out on the street for 26 hours straight.
The government will debate this crisis when Parliament is recalled on Thursday, meaning that all members must meet in Parliament in order to discuss implementing tougher measures against these rioters.
Parliament has only been recalled 14 times in the last 30 years, and is only done so in the most severe of situations, such as the 2002 debate on the Iraq war.
Time will tell the outcome of Parliament’s decision, but tonight, as another city burns with the riots in Greater Manchester, the question on everyone’s mind is: when exactly will the madness stop?