On August 4th 2011 after investigating a crime in the community of Tottenham, North London, police stopped a taxi with alleged drug dealer Mark Duggan inside. Nobody knows the exact details, but shortly after Duggan was dead from a police bullet. The exact circumstances that lead up to this shooting are still a bit unsure. What Duggan did that triggered this reaction from police is still unclear. This event turned out to be the catalyst for what is now 5 days of lawlessness.
Shortly after, Britain’s watchdog opened an investigation into the fatal death of Duggan. Two days later on August 6th, 200 people along with Duggan’s close family and friends gathered to peacefully protest the handling of the situation. According to locals, things escalated after an argument ensued between a police officer and a protestor — objects were then lit on fire, bottles thrown, shops were looted — a riot had begun.
Riot police were brought in to deal with the situation but it had gotten far out of hand by this time.
The following day, the violence quickly spread to neighbouring Enfield and Brixton. Outnumbered riot police struggled to control the rioters and the looting and destruction continued with no signs of letting up.
On August 8, British Prime Minister David Cameron addressed the public outside of his Downing Street office — calling the riots “criminality pure and simple”. He announced that 16,000 riot police would be placed onto the streets.
Even after police have made more than 700 arrests, the rioters are not showing any signs of slowing down their destructive rampage with people still organizing more mobs. Reports suggest that rioters are utilizing social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to organize attacks and avoid police. In particular they are using BlackBerry Messenger (as the Canadian made BlackBerry is realtively cheap and commonly used by the youth in the United Kingdom) a near instant, encrypted and highly secure instant messageing application to communicate with each other. Police have contacted Research in Motion (RIM), the Waterloo Ontario based Canadian makers of the BlackBerry for help. RIM have agreed to assist the British police in any way they can, however, after making this announcement, the hacker group with the handle “TriCk – TeaMp0isoN” defaced RIM‘s official BlackBerry blog, threatening that if the company did assist UK police the group would make public the names, addresses and email addresses of RIM employees in the United Kingdom.
Police are also utilizing social media to correctly inform the public’s concerns. They are dispelling rumours on twitter and trying to give the public immediate reports and instruction.
This four-day riot that has left buildings burned down, vehicles destroyed, shops looted, and people homeless, shows no signs of ending as it moves into its 5th day.
Many small businesses are afraid that they will not recover from this. The destruction is widespread and although police are doing the best that they can to de-escalate the situation, the mob seems to be growing.
Prime Minister Cameron on Wednesday took a firmer line stating: “Whatever resources the police need, they will get. Whatever tactics the police feel they need to employ, they will have legal backing to do so … We will do whatever is necessary to restore law and order onto our streets.”