London, Aug 15: The Daily Mail on Monday published pictures of armed officers pinning a group of boys as young as 11 to the ground in front of shocked shoppers.
Days after the disturbances spread to Manchester, a group of seven youths were ordered to lie on the ground after being confronted outside a Greggs bakery on one of the city's council estates in broad daylight.
It later emerged that officers had been responding to reports of what looked like a handgun being passed between the youths on Saturday afternoon.
An onlooker said: ‘There was a group of lads sitting around on their bikes in the middle of the precinct.
‘Then I heard shouts of “Armed police!” and “Get down!” It was all so fast.
The boys flew on to the ground and the police had the guns close to their heads.'
The shopper said the youths were ordered to remain on the ground in the Wythenshawe area for 15 minutes while the contents of their bags were examined.
‘The police seemed particularly interested in a bag one of them had. They tore it open.'
Greater Manchester Police said neither the arrest nor their handling of it were connected to the riots.
‘This is an absolutely standard police operation whenever a firearm is mentioned,' a source said.
‘The officer isn't pointing the gun at the suspect, he's simply holding it.'
A 17-year-old was later charged with possession of an imitation firearm in a public place while an 18-year-old received an adult caution for the same offence.
The spokesman at first denied that a gun had been drawn on the boy but later admitted that the officer was entitled to point his gun at a suspect if he felt the threat level was sufficient.
It is believed the second arrest was an adult picked up in a different location but related to the same incident.
The scene came as the acting head of the Metropolitan Police clashed with Prime Minister David Cameron over a suggestion that the army could be deployed to stop rioting in London.
Tim Godwin told Mr Cameron he would agree to troops on the streets of the UK capital only after all of his officers and borough commanders are standing on the front line.
The pair also rowed over the suggestion that Mr Cameron was due to bring in U.S ‘Supercop' Bill Bratton as an adviser to help him introduce a tougher approach to street crime.