Civil unrest spreads across the UK

Updated On: Aug 10, 2011

Violence spread across Britain for a fourth night as riots broke out in Manchester and the industrial Midlands, amidst Prime Minister David Cameron’s vow to do "everything necessary to restore order to the streets". Rioters set fire to buildings in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton, and police described the riots in Manchester as the city's worst violence in 30 years. Police officers were even targeted by rioters, with policemen in Liverpool being pelted with missiles and a police station in Nottingham being firebombed.

The situation was less turbulent in London. Security in London was stepped up following the events of Monday night which was “the worst night of disorder in living memory in the British capital”. All Metropolitan Police leave was cancelled, and police numbers in London were ramped up from 6,000 to 16,000 on Tuesday. Londoners even took to the streets to defend their communities in Eltham and Southall. Some also gathered on Tuesday morning in Clapham to help clean up the damage. 685 people have been arrested in London, while 111 police officers were injured. The first fatality of the riots was a 26 year-old-man who died on Tuesday after being shot in Croydon. Tensions are likely to increase after a watchdog found that there was no evidence that Mark Duggan, whose death had sparked off the riots in London, fired his handgun at police officers.

Report: Violence flares outside London but capital calm [AFP, 10 Aug 2011]

In wake of the continued violence and disorder in Britain, parliament has been recalled from its summer recess on Thursday so that MPs can debate their response to the riots. This is highly unusual as MPs have not been called back during the summer since 2002. Mr. Cameron called for lawmakers to “stand together in condemnation of these crimes" and "stand together in determination to rebuild these communities". He warned rioters that regardless of their age, they would “feel the full force of the law” and face punishment for their actions. He is expected to make a Commons statement at 1130 BST on Thursday. The Commons Home Affairs Committee will also meet in private to decide if an inquiry into the riots is warranted.

Report: London riots: Parliament to be recalled [BBC News, 9 Aug 2011] 
Report: Cameron vows to restore order after British 'mob rule' [Straits Times, 10 Aug 2011]

The riots raise questions about security in the British capital ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games. The civil unrest also raises concerns about Britain’s struggling economy. Decreased public spending, rising unemployment and increased taxes have aggravated the plight of the youth and the poor in inner cities, in areas such as Croydon, Tottenham and Hackney. Besides the anti-police sentiments following Duggan’s death, these growing frustrations may have inadvertently served as undercurrents for the riots.

Report & Analysis: Violence erupts outside London but capital quiet [Reuters, 9 Aug 2011]
Analysis: Claim cuts fomenting tensions [Financial Times, 8 Aug 2011] 
Report & Analysis: Britain burns: Riots spread through UK cities [Jakarta Post, 9 Aug 2011]

Social media has also been identified as playing a powerful and essential role in the escalation of Britain’s rioting. Hackers defaced a website belonging to Research in Motion, after the company said that it would assist the London police in investigating the riots by turning over messages from rioters which were sent using Blackberry smartphones.

Parallels have been drawn between London’s rioters and the pro-democracy demonstrators of the “Arab Spring”, especially in terms of youth disenchantment and social media incitement. Britain’s rioters have been characterized as nihilist, and concerns over wider risks of youth unrest and disillusionment have surfaced. Some have warned that such discontentment amongst youth is not just confined to Britain, and similar events may occur around the world if authorities do not address the underlying issues behind these sentiments.

Report: Blackberry Website Hacked in Wake of London Riots [Fox News, 9 Aug 2011]
Analysis: London riots point to much wider risks of youth unrest [Reuters Africa, 9 Aug 2011]

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