Blame game begins after Tottenham burns

A shop burns in Tottenham, north London, as helpless riot police look on
A shop burns in Tottenham, north London, as helpless riot police look on. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

By Alex Stevenson

The Met's policing of yesterday's rioting in Tottenham has been called into question, as the local community recovers from a night of "mindless" violence in north London.

Downing Street has said there is "no justification" for the aggression faced by police last night, but at least one Labour MP has blamed the coalition for the violence.

Twenty-six police officers were injured as they faced petrol bombs on Tottenham High Street from rioters angered by the fatal shooting of a local man, 29-year-old Mark Duggan, on Thursday.


Two patrol cars were set on fire, as was a double-decker bus. Shops were looted in a complete breakdown of law and order in the area, which also saw rioters use fireworks and bottles as missiles.

Abdul Karim, a Tottenham resident, told the BBC a "whole ocean of people angry for loot" ruled the High Street. "It was just surreal, it was like a nightmare," he said.

"You see this kind of things happening in Somalia, but I can't imagine this sort of thing happening in central London. There must be some deep reason why so many people are angry."

Two police officers remain in hospital. Three members of the public received treatment, two in hospital and one at the scene.

Forty-two people are in custody as police continue their inquiries.

Labour's former minister David Lammy, the local MP for Tottenham, questioned the way the Met dealt with the violence.

Around 300 people began protesting yesterday afternoon. The targeting of two police patrol cars is thought to have triggered the rapid transition to a full-scale riot.

"I'm concerned that what was a peaceful process... turned into this," Mr Lammy said this morning, after touring Tottenham High Street.

"It seemed to go on for many hours before we saw the kind of policing that I thought was appropriate. I think small skirmishes we saw initially should have been stopped far more quickly."

A senior Met officer, speaking outside Scotland Yard, emphasised the "fast-moving" nature of the events.

"We kept a very dignified presence at the vigil and there was no indication that would be anything other than a peaceful protest," the officer said. "The level of violence escalated absolutely disproportionately. We moved appropriate resources in to contain the area."

Tottenham suffered rioting in 1985, when the community's relationship with police reached a former low.

Mr Lammy insisted that the situation was different then, but Labour's Derby North MP Chris Williamson appeared to blame the government for the riots nonetheless.

"Why is it the Tories never take responsibility for the consequences of their party's disastrous policies," he tweeted.

He retweeted another user's comments making the point more clearly: "Riots. Protests. Cuts. Unemployment. Disaffected Youth. Strikes. Recession.Police Brutality. Yep, the Tories are back alright."

Haringey council leader Claire Kober said the scene on Tottenham High Street was "heartbreaking".

"The scenes of devastation behind me are not going to be fixed very quickly," she said.

"I urge the community to stick together, to work towards rebuilding. We will work with you to get those answers - but please, please work with us."

The Met's focus today is on restoring calm in the community.

The brief press conference by the police cordon barring the way to the High Street was interrupted by frustrated community members.

Their concerns were voiced by a pastor who emphasised concerns about Mr Duggan's death on Thursday.

"A man was shot in our community and our community cried out for justice," the reverend said.

"We must respect the voice of this community... what we must recognise is the peaceful protesters saying give us answers for what happened two days ago - they didn't get those answers.

"We've got to recognise, they need justice. They're crying for justice and we can't ignore that. Until we've got answers, I don't think we can rebuild the community."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) urged anyone who witnessed the incident which led to Mr Duggan's death to contact the watchdog in confidence on 0800 096 9079.

"I understand the distress that the shooting of Mark Duggan has caused to his family and in the community and that people need answers about what happened to him," IPCC commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne said.

"This case was referred to the IPCC immediately and we declared it an independent investigation and sent our investigators straight to the scene in Tottenham, where they took control and remained until late Friday night, supervising the forensic examinations." 

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