London, Aug 7: London Police came under attack from petrol bombs hurled by rioting mobs in North London on Saturday night as hundreds took to the streets following the shooting of a man by Scotland Yard marksmen, reports Daily Mail.
Patrol cars, a shop and a double-decker bus were set ablaze and there were reports of looting amid scenes reminiscent of the violent unrest in the same area 26 years ago when PC Keith Blakelock was hacked to death.
Last night the Tottenham area erupted once again as more than 100 officers and specialist riot police faced crowds of more than 500 people protesting about the death of Mark Duggan, who lived on the estate and was described last week by police sources as a ‘gangster'.
A crowd of around 500 people clashed with officers near to Tottenham police station. Missiles, including Molotov cocktails, rocks and fire extinguishers, were thrown at the officers.
There was concern that the disturbances were fanned by Twitter, with some of those taking part posting inflammatory comments from the scene and calling for reinforcements.
One picture of a police car on fire in the area was re-tweeted more than 100 times on the social networking site within an hour.
Mr Duggan, 29, was shot by officers from the Metropolitan Police's CO19 unit on Thursday evening after the minicab he was travelling in was stopped. There was an apparent ‘exchange' of fire and a bullet was found lodged in a police radio.Mr Duggan died at the scene and an officer was injured, but left hospital after treatment.
The violence last night started soon after a crowd of about 120 had begun to gather at the High Road, near Tottenham Hotspur's football ground, from about 5.30pm. Their target was the police station which was being guarded late last night by lines of officers and police vans. As the disorder spread, and the numbers of demonstrators swelled, two police cars being used to block the road were set ablaze by masked youths.
Flames began to billow from a shop and then a double-decker bus was engulfed in flames and quickly reduced to a twisted shell. Witnesses also reported seeing a jewellery shop and a bookmakers being looted. Teenagers and younger children were seen carrying valuables through the shattered glass front of an electrical shop.
Windows were smashed at a Barclays Bank and pictures on Twitter appeared to show the building being looted. There were also reports that youths had stormed McDonald's and had started frying their own burgers and chips.Footage was posted on YouTube of local solicitor's office Attridge on fire.
Resident David Akinsanya, 46, who was on the scene, said: ‘It's really bad. There are two police cars on fire. I'm feeling unsafe. It looks like it's going to get very tasty. I saw a guy getting attacked.'
A local woman, who declined to give her name, said: ‘There's a theory going on that the man who was shot had dropped his gun, but they still shot him. I'm hearing that most of the shops in the High Road are being burgled and robbed.'
Several fire crews could only stand ready nearby as they were barred from the High Road where buildings and the bus were ablaze.One fireman complained to The Mail on Sunday that earlier, three engines had been dispatched to the scene without being warned they were entering a riot zone. He said: ‘We were sent to a road accident but it was the police cars on fire.
‘We were then ordered to leave them burning and to drive off, probably for our own safety.‘I cannot believe what we have just driven through. As we pulled out of the station, there was a car on fire on the High Road and there were people in the middle of the road – it was very scary. We didn't give them a chance to try to stop us. I am still shaking.'
Meanwhile, two Daily Mail photographers were viciously beaten and robbed by masked youths armed with crowbars and other makeshift weapons and reporters on the scene were threatened by looters in balaclavas.
The photographers said there was ‘total lawlessness' in the area with the contents of shops strewn across the streets and the police unable to gain access.
One said: ‘It is utter carnage out there. We have been beaten up quite badly and had about £8,000 of equipment stolen. We were quite discreet but as soon as we got a camera out we were set on by youths with masks who were armed with crowbars.'
In a separate incident, a Mail on Sunday reporter was chased down a side street and struck on the back of the head with a rock.In a parallel with the 1985 riot, residents claimed the roots of last night's violence lay in allegations of police harassment.John Blake, who grew up with Mr Duggan on the Broadwater estate, claimed the dead man had been victimised by police in recent weeks.
He said: ‘I know the police were harassing him. The police were following him. If you're from Broadwater Farm, police are on you every day, you're not allowed to come off the estate. If you come off the estate they follow you.'
A family friend of Mr Duggan, who gave her name only as Nikki, 53, said the man's friends and relatives had organised the protest because ‘something has to be done' and the marchers wanted ‘justice for the family'.
Some of those involved lay in the road to make their point, she said.
‘They're making their presence known because people are not happy,' she added. ‘This guy was not violent. Yes, he was involved in things but he was not an aggressive person. He had never hurt anyone.'
As the rioting escalated, trouble-makers on Twitter seemed keen to orchestrate the violence, bringing scores more people into the area. One user calling himself ‘English Frank' urged attacks on the police, saying: ‘Everyone up and roll to Tottenham f*** the 50 [police]. I hope 1 dead tonight.'
And in a clear incitement to looting, ‘Sonny Twag' tweeted: ‘Want to roll Tottenham to loot. I do want a free TV. Who wudn't.'
‘Mrs Lulu' tweeted: ‘Brehs [men] asking who's down to roll [go] Tottenham right now, to get justice. – RIP Mark x.'
A tweet apparently passed on by chart-topping rapper Chipmunk, who comes from Tottenham, paid tribute to the dead man: ‘R.I.P Mark Duggan a real straight up and down respected man. LOVE!!!!!!!!'
Joining in the Twitter frenzy, ‘Ashley AR' tweeted: ‘I hear Tottenham's going coco-bananas right now. Watch me roll.'
Officers from Trident, the police unit that deals with gun crime in the black community, had been attempting to arrest Mr Duggan when Thursday's shooting took place.
‘Shots were fired and a 29-year-old man, who was a passenger in the cab, died at the scene,' said a spokesman for the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is investigating. It is believed that two shots were fired by a firearms officer, equipped with a Heckler & Koch MP5 carbine.
Local MP David Lammy called for calm last night. On his website, he said: ‘We already have one grieving family in our community and further violence will not heal that pain.'
Last night, a Scotland Yard spokesman explained how the riot began.
‘Two police cars had parked up at Forster Road/High Road while their officers conducted traffic patrols on foot. At approximately 2020 hours a number of bottles were thrown at these two cars – one was set alight and the second was pushed into the middle of the High Road. It was subsequently set alight.'
Grim echo of 1985 Broadwater farm riot
Last night's disturbance sparked grim memories of the infamous Broadwater Farm riot of 1985 in which PC Keith Blakelock was hacked to death.
Violence erupted after the death of Tottenham resident Cynthia Jarrett, 49. Mrs Jarrett collapsed and died from a heart attack while police were at her home carrying out a search the day before the disturbances. On October 6, a small crowd gathered outside Tottenham police station and broke its windows.
Later that afternoon, two beat officers were attacked and seriously injured by a brick-throwing crowd.
A community protest meeting was followed by a police officer having his car attacked and then a mob attacking the police van called to help him. In the riots that ensued, PC Blakelock, 40, was killed on the Broadwater Farm housing estate.
After police baton charges, officers were forced back by rioters. As they retreated, PC Blakelock tripped and fell and was surrounded by balaclava-wearing rioters.
He suffered 42 wounds and his head was slashed eight times with a machete.
Two policemen were also shot and injured, and by midnight on the day of the riot 58 officers and 24 other people had been taken to hospital.
Petrol bombs were thrown during the violence, and cars were overturned and set alight along with shops and other buildings. The Broadwater Farm riot followed similar disturbances in Brixton. PC Blakelock was posthumously awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal.