LONDON, Aug 7 – Police battled to restore order Sunday as rioters went on the rampage in north London, torching vehicles and buildings amid widespread looting after the fatal shooting by police of a local man.
Eight police officers were injured in the violence and taken to hospital. At least one has a head injury.
The mayhem, which broke out in Tottenham just before sunset Saturday, followed a protest over the death of a 29-year-old man during an apparent exchange of gunfire with police.
The demonstration had been a peaceful rally outside the police station on Tottenham High Road before two police cars were attacked with petrol bombs and set ablaze.
A public double-decker bus was then torched as the violence rapidly spread, with gangs of hooded youths descending on the area.
The situation raged out of control as hundreds ran amok, setting shops and other vehicles on fire.
There was concern that the unrest was being fuelled by rapid posts on social media inciting others to join in.
Central London has seen student and trade union protests turn ugly in the last 12 months but this outbreak of rioting is the worst seen in years in the suburbs.
Under a hail of missiles and petrol bombs, riot officers and mounted police battled to regain control of the streets and escort fire crews safely through to tackle the series of blazes.
Rioters kicked in windows as shops were looted, with people pushing away shopping trolleys full of stolen goods.
“It’s really bad,” local resident David Akinsanya told BBC television. “There seems to be a lot of anger in Tottenham tonight.”
Shortly before dawn, police said the situation had calmed on the High Road but officers were still responding to pockets of trouble flaring up elsewhere in the area.
Police were unable to give a count of the buildings and vehicles torched.
No arrests were reported as police said restoring public safety was their first priority.
“These are very distressing scenes for Londoners,” police commander Stephen Watson said.
“It’s important we emphasise that the safety of the public is of paramount importance to us … Our absolute aim is to restore normality.”
Tottenham is an ethnically-diverse urban area best known for its English Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur.
The unrest followed a peaceful march in protest over the death Thursday of minicab passenger Mark Duggan, a father-of-four. He died at the scene.
An officer may have had a lucky escape in the incident — a police radio was found to have a bullet stuck in it.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which investigates all police shootings — regular British police officers do not carry guns — said that specialist firearms officers stopped a minicab on Thursday to carry out a pre-planned arrest.
They were accompanied by officers from Trident, the unit focused on tackling gun crime in the black community.
“Shots were fired and a 29-year-old man, who was a passenger in the cab, died at the scene,” the IPCC said.
It is believed that a firearms officer fired two shots. A non-police issue handgun was also recovered at the scene.
“An officer’s radio which appears to have a bullet lodged in it has also been recovered.”
The march began at Broadwater Farm, a 1960s public housing estate in Tottenham that is notorious across Britain.
In 1985, Police Constable Keith Blakelock hacked to death on the estate in some of the worst urban rioting in Britain in the past 30 years.
David Lammy, the member of parliament for Tottenham, appealed for calm Sunday.
“Those who remember the destructive conflicts of the past will be determined not to go back to them,” he said.
“We already have one grieving family in our community and further violence will not heal that pain. True justice can only follow a thorough investigation of the facts.”
Police commander Watson said they did not have warnings about the kind of disorder witnessed in Tottenham.
“We are aware of raised tensions in the community, which are understandable,” he said but there was “no indication” that the protest “would deteriorate in this way.”
A spokesman for London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “Violence and destruction of property will do nothing to facilitate this (IPCC) investigation and we urge those involved to respect the rule of law.”