LONDON: Rioters throwing petrol bombs battled police in north London overnight, setting patrol cars, buildings and a double-decker bus on fire in some of the worst disorder seen in the British capital in recent years.
About 200 people rained missiles and bottles on riot officers near Tottenham police station after a protest at the fatal shooting of a man by armed officers earlier in the week turned violent.
Mounted police and riot officers on foot in turn charged the troublemakers, to push them back.
Eight officers were taken to hospital, one with head injuries, as rioters attacked buildings including banks, shops and a supermarket and torched three police cars in the main road near the local police base.
Television pictures showed a blazing bus surrounded by rioters and hooded youths pelting an abandoned police car with rocks and missiles.
While the bulk of the disturbance had been brought under control early on Sunday, pockets of trouble were still erupting nearby.
“These are very distressing scenes for Londoners in general and the local community in particular,” said Commander Stephen Watson.
“It’s important we emphasise that the safety of the public is of paramount importance to us. Our intention at this time is to bring things to as swift a conclusion as we can. Our absolute aim is to restore normality.”
The trouble broke out on Saturday night following a peaceful demonstration over the shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan, who was killed after an exchange of gunfire with police on Thursday.
Duggan had been in a taxi when it was stopped by armed officers as part of a pre-planned operation. One policeman escaped unhurt after a bullet struck his radio. Duggan’s death is being investigated by the independent police watchdog.
Although there have been riots in other European countries linked to austerity measures to tackle large national debts, police and local community leaders said the shooting was the cause of the riot.
“We already have one grieving family in our community and further violence will not heal that pain. True justice can only follow a thorough investigation of the facts,” said local member of parliament David Lammy.
“The Tottenham community and Mark Duggan’s family and friends need to understand what happened on Thursday evening when Mark lost his life. To understand those facts, we must have calm.”
Watson said they had been aware of the increased tensions but added there had been no indication matters would deteriorate as they had.
“We did not have warnings that we were going to see the kind of disorder being witnessed tonight,” he said.
“We are aware of raised tensions in the community, which are understandable following the tragic death of Mark Duggan.”
Near scene of notorious riot
The area where the disorder occurred was very close to the scene of one of Britain’s most notorious riots just over 25 years ago.
Police officer Keith Blakelock was hacked to death on a rundown housing estate in Tottenham during the rioting in October 1985 when around 500 mainly black youths rampaged through the streets, attacking police, looting and setting fires.
More recently, London saw riots at the end of last year when protests against government plans to raise tuition fees for university students turned violent with police and government buildings attacked.
During the most serious disturbances last December, rioters targeted the limousine belonging to heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, kicking its doors, cracking a window and reportedly jabbing Camilla with a stick.