16,000 police officers were called into the capital of the United Kingdom on Tuesday 9th August as riots continued following the shooting of Marc Duggan in Tottenham.
All police leave has been cancelled, the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and London Mayor have all returned from their holidays to deal with the crisis and Parliament has been recalled on Thursday to debate the response to riots which have spread to the UK’s other major cities.
UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, said:
“I have this very clear message to those people who are responsible for this wrongdoing and criminality: you will feel the full force of the law and if you are old enough to commit these crimes you are old enough to face the punishment. And to these people I would say this: you are not only wrecking the lives of others, you’re not only wrecking your own communities; you are potentially wrecking your own life too.”
Mr Cameron campaigned for office with a manifesto of what the Conservative Party called the “Big Society” – where communities would provide for themselves many of the services previously provided by government. The Cabinet Office defines the policy thus:
“The Big Society is about helping people to come together to improve their own lives. It’s about putting more power in people’s hands – a massive transfer of power from Whitehall to local communities.”
Plastic bullets and water cannons have now been approved for use by police and the possibility of the army being called in has been raised. The last time water cannon were used on British streets, was in the 1919 Metropolitan Police Strike. Plastic bullets have been recorded as having fatally injured citizens in Northern Ireland and Bahrain.
The two most senior officers in the Metropolitan Police recently resigned over a lack of support from politicians and the media following questions about their involvement in the News of the World phone hacking scandal. Acting heads are in place until suitable appointments can be made. The Met Police reported having made 770 arrests as part of “Operation Withern” set up to deal with the disorder.
Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol have also been affected by the summer riots which have fed on a hotbed of resentment following a recession involving a series of high street closures and government cuts needed to pay for massive budget deficits.
Shops were attacked and a car set alight in Birmingham’s Moor Street, though the West Midlands Police reported that Tuesday was calmer than the previous night. Closed roads have now been reopened and National Express services have resumed from the city centre.
Bins were set alight, stones thrown and riot police deployed in Bristol.
Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan of Greater Manchester Police said:
“Over the past few hours, Greater Manchester Police has been faced with extraordinary levels of violence from groups of criminals intent on committing widespread disorder.
“Shops have been targeted, looted and set on fire and I, like everyone else, am absolutely appalled by the shameful actions of these criminals who have attacked our cities and have put Manchester and Salford in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
“This is nothing more than senseless violence with no absolutely no regard for people, their property or livelihoods. These criminals have also attacked some of my officers and other emergency services who are simply trying to do their job to keep the public safe and restore order.
“These people have nothing to protest against – there is no sense of injustice or any spark that has led to this. It is, pure and simple, acts of criminal behaviour which are the worst I have seen on this scale.”
Contrary to the arguments of the ACC, the catalyst for the rioting in some of the UK’s most deprived areas was the killing of Marc Duggan, who was shot to death by SO19 officers on Thursday 4th August 2011. Mr Duggan’s family conducted a peaceful protest at the local police station following his death, but people on the street later turned violent. The disorder was initially characterised by authorities as having being caused by “criminals and thieves” from outside the area, though successive nights of rioting have forced the UK’s leadership to acknowledge a wider problem.
The death of Mr Duggan is the subject of an Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation. An update from the IPCC gave details as follows:
“…at approximately 6.15pm on Thursday 4 August 2011, officers from the Metropolitan Police Service’s Operation Trident and SCD 11 accompanied by officers from the Met’s Specialist Firearms Command (CO19), stopped a silver Toyota Estima people carrier minicab in Ferry Lane, close to Tottenham Hale tube station in Tottenham to carry out an arrest.
“Mark Duggan was a passenger in the minicab. What happened next is subject to the independent investigation.
“Two shots were fired by one CO19 firearms officer.
“Paramedics from London Ambulance Service (LAS) attended along with medics from the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) but Mr Duggan was pronounced dead at scene at 6.41pm.
“A non-police issue handgun was recovered from the scene.
“A post mortem examination concluded that Mr Duggan was killed by a single gun shot wound to the chest. He also received a second gunshot wound to his right bicep.
“The IPCC commissioned tests by the Forensic Science Service (FSS) who have so far confirmed that:
- The bullet lodged in the MPS radio is a “jacketed round”. This is a police issue bullet and, whilst it is still subject to DNA analysis, it is consistent with having been fired from an MPS Heckler and Koch MP5.
- The firearm found at the scene was a converted BBM ‘Bruni’ self loading pistol. This is not a replica; the scientist considers it to be a firearm for the purposes of the Firearms Act and a prohibited weapon and is therefore illegal.
- The handgun was found to have a “bulleted cartridge” in the magazine, which is being subject to further tests.
“At this stage there is no evidence that the handgun found at the scene was fired during the incident. The FSS has told the IPCC that it may not be possible to say for certain whether the handgun was fired, however further tests are being carried out in an attempt to establish this.
“The officer whose radio was hit was taken to Homerton Hospital where he was examined and discharged later that night.
“The minicab driver was not physically injured, but was badly shaken by what he saw. His account along with that of the officers is being examined along with the emerging forensic evidence.”
This is not the first time that rioting has occurred during the summer months in the deprived areas of Britain. 1995 and 2001 both saw violence and arson in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley in what, at the time, were described as “race riots”.
While rioting in the UK is only currently flaring in isolated locations within major cities, it is now nation wide. Whether or not authorities in the country have sufficient resources to contain this violence remains to be seen.