I've spent a lot of time this afternoon on the phone with family in the US, assuring them that our area of London has not been affected by the riots. I tried to get people on the phone before they turned on the news and saw the pictures of buildings going up in flames and stores being looted by thugs wearing masks.
For anyone unaware, the riots began three days ago when the family of Mark Duggan organized a peaceful protest against the police, who'd shot him dead in an altercation. This peaceful demonstration was hijacked by more violent individuals who began setting cars on fire and looting houses in North London. Over the course of three days, the riots have gotten worse each day, and last night 6,000 police on the streets battled outbreaks of violence all around London, and riots broke out in several other major UK cities, including Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leeds, and Bristol. Despite the scale of the rioting, there has only been one fatality. Otherwise most of the damage has been in the form of theft and property damage, including an apartment block that burned and left the inhabitants homeless.
The Prime Minister and Home Secretary have interrupted vacations abroad to return to London and have recalled the Parliament. Tonight they will mobilize 16,000 police and authorize them to use more force, perhaps including rubber bullets, to contain outbreaks of rioting. So far, our neighborhood hasn't been affected, and I don't expect it will be. The main target seems to be retail stores, and there aren't many of those near us. The nearest high street is a mile away.
We're all hoping they bring the situation under control tonight. #londonriots on Twitter, and for the positive side of all this: #riotcleanup and #riotwombles.