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Breakdown of England's riots

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The images of the smouldering remains of burnt out buildings and the black carcass of a bus accompanied the news stories of the weekend North London riots. Monday evening saw this mass of destruction spread throughout the entire country.London riots

The havoc started following the death of Mark Duggan, 29 who was killed on Thursday by Metropolitan Police. The officers worked for Operation Trident, which investigates gun crime in the black community.

He was shot during an attempted arrest where three shots were fired. A bullet was found lodged in the police car radio and a non-police gun was found on the scene leading many to believe Duggan had fired at the police men, but no confirmations have been made by Operation Trident.  A police officer was injured in the incident and later discharged from hospital.

The silence from the police has sparked questions around the original idea that the police officers acted in self defence following a shot fired first by Duggan. The uncertainty surrounding the bullet found in the car radio and non police gun found at the scene suggests that Duggan may have had a gun but did not necessarily use it.

Around 300 people gathered for a peaceful protest on Saturday outside Tottenham police station, asking the police for answers. When they refused to respond a riot started in the area which spread to looting, fatalities and arson throughout London.

Sunday night saw the second night of violence spreading to boroughs in north, south and east London. Brixton had the biggest amount of violence with more shops being looted and set alight. The rioting continued on Monday evening.

The number of arrests in London are reported to be at least 400 so far.

A huge fire broke out in Croydon at a sofa factory which then spread to buildings and tram lines, cars were set on fire in Lewisham, a bus and shop set alight in Peckham and a fire started in Haven Green park. A Sony warehouse in Enfield, a shopping centre in Woolwich New Road, a timber yard in East Ham and a building on Lavender Hill were all up in flames.

Shops have been looted and raided including a Debenhams store and a Tesco in Bethnal Green, a 26 year old man found in a car in Croydon has been hospitalised with gunshot wounds.

The riots then spread throughout the country and following ‘copycat’ behaviour in Birmingham 100 youths have been arrested and a police station has been set on fire.

Reports from Nottingham state a police station to have been attacked and 200 tyres set on fire in the street.

This is the second lot of riots since the coalition government, following on from the students against fees in November. Computers were destroyed, furniture broken and fire hoses turned on when over 200 protestors broke into the Tory headquarters after smashing the windows. Thirty five arrests were made and around 14 people hospitalized.

The riots have been attributed to an already existing tension between young people and the police, following the practice of stopping and searching. They are reminiscent of the Brixton riots in 1981 which started following a significant number of black youths being stopped and searched after a serious increase in street robbery.

There have been talks of a curfew, suggestions of using the army to regain control and the temporary shutting down of social networking sites to attempt to reduce higher numbers of people getting involved.

The violence has sparked a debate on the underlying reasons for this reaction. Some view it as an excuse for crime to go unpunished, a mass riot with hundreds of people means it’s likely that many will go without reprimand from the law for stealing due to the difficulty of tracing everyone involved.

Others believe the riots to be a result of underlying discontent that has been simmering under the surface for months. Unemployment, benefit cuts from the new government result in this being deemed as the ‘summer of discontent’.

William Keegan writes for the observer comparing the riots to those under the conservative reign of Thatcher;

“Fears for jobs, education and the welfare state: it is all so reminiscent of 30 years ago. But whereas Mrs Thatcher could claim to be tackling high inflation, this coalition has had to invent its excuses.”

Only time will tell how long the riots will go on for, the silence from the police suggest the original news story may last for weeks. Is the reaction simply down to criminality? Or is it a stand against the coalition government?

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