The human cost was withering. Graham Reeves, 52, stood dumbstruck in front of the smoldering ruins of his family department store, the House of Reeves on Croydon in south London. The store is a local landmark run by the Reeves family for decades — and his 80-year old father was hysterical when he heard the news.
“No one’s stolen anything,” Graham Reeves said. “They just burnt it down.”
Disorder flared throughout the night, from gritty suburbs along the capital’s fringes to central London’s posh Notting Hill neighborhood.
Police said all London police holding cells were full and prisoners were being taken to surrounding communities. At least 100 have been charged, including an 11-year old.
Police were also monitoring Twitter, and warned that those who posted messages inciting the violence could face arrest.
Three people were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after a police officer was struck by a car in north London early Tuesday. About 44 police officers have been injured in the violence.
After dawn Tuesday, the unrest appeared to calm, either quelled by police or fading as rioters drifted away.
The images of London’s violence recalled those in France in 2005, when hooded and masked youths fought police in three weeks of raging overnight battles in suburban housing projects that became a challenge to the French state.
Mass deployments of police eventually subdued the rioters, but tensions between police and youth in the projects continue today, with periodic eruptions of clashes between youths with Molotov cocktails and police with tear gas. French police say between 30 and 50 cars are set on fire during an average week. On the most fiery night of the 2005 riots, more than 1,400 cars went up in flames.
Violence in London first broke out late Saturday in the low-income, multiethnic district of Tottenham in the northern part of the city, where outraged protesters demonstrated against the fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old father of four who was gunned down in disputed circumstances Thursday.
A brief inquest hearing into Duggan’s death takes place Tuesday, though it will likely be several months before a full hearing.
Duggan’s death stirred old animosities and racial tensions similar to those that prompted massive riots in the 1980s, despite efforts by London police to build better relations with the city’s ethnic communities.
But, as the unrest spread, some pointed to rising social tensions in Britain as the government slashes 80 billion pounds ($130 billion) from public spending by 2015 to reduce the huge deficit, swollen after the country spent billions bailing out its foundering banks.
Sony Corp. said a major blaze had broken out at its distribution center near Enfield, north London, damaging DVDs and other products. So many fires were being fought in the capital that Thames Water warned that some customers could face water pressure drops. In the Clapham Junction area of south London, a mob stole masks from a party store to disguise their identities and then set the building on fire.
Dozens of people attacked shops in Birmingham’s main retail district, and clashed with police in Liverpool and Bristol.