U.K. PM recalls Parliament over London riots

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LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron recalled Parliament from its summer recess Tuesday and nearly tripled the number of police on the streets of London to deal with the crisis touched off by three days of rioting.

Cameron described the scenes of burning buildings and smashed windows in London and several other British cities as “sickening,” but refrained from more extreme measures such as calling in the military to help beleaguered police restore order.

Instead, he said 16,000 officers would be on the streets of the capital Tuesday night, almost tripling the number on the streets Monday night. The riots also claimed their first death — a 26 year old found shot dead in a car.

“People should be in no doubt that we will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain’s streets and to make them safe for the law-abiding,” Cameron told reporters after rushing home from an Italian vacation to chair a crisis meeting at his Downing Street office.

A wave of violence and looting raged across London, as authorities struggled to contain the country’s worst unrest since race riots set the capital ablaze in the 1980s. Some 525 arrests have been made.

Parliament will return to duty on Thursday, as the political fallout from the rampage takes hold. The crisis is a major test for Cameron’s Conservative-led coalition government, which includes Liberal Democrats who had long suspected its program of harsh budget restraints could provoke popular dissent.

In London, groups of young people rampaged for a third straight night, setting buildings, vehicles and garbage dumps alight, looting stores and pelting police officers with bottles and fireworks into early Tuesday. The spreading disorder was an unwelcome warning of the possibility of violence during London’s 2012 Summer Olympics, less than a year away.

England’s soccer match Wednesday against the Netherlands in London’s Wembley stadium was canceled to free up police officers for riot duty.

Police on Monday called in hundreds of reinforcements and volunteer police officers— and deployed armored vehicles in some of the worst-hit districts — but still struggled to keep pace with the chaos unfolding at flashpoints across London, in the central city of Birmingham, the western city of Bristol and the northwestern city of Liverpool.

“The violence we have seen is simply inexcusable. Ordinary people have had their lives turned upside down by this mindless thuggery,” police commander Christine Jones said.

London's police said 14 people were injured, including a man in his 60s with life-threatening injuries. It was unclear if the man who died had been among them.

The rioters appeared to have little unifying cause — though some claimed to oppose sharp government spending cuts, which will slash welfare payments and cut tens of thousands of public sector jobs through 2015.

But many were attracted simply by the opportunity for violence. “Come join the fun!” shouted one youth in the east London suburb of Hackney, where shops were attacked and cars torched.

Rioters were left virtually unchallenged in several neighborhoods and able to plunder from stores at will or attempt to invade homes. Restaurants and stores fearful of looting closed early across London.

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