London Crisis: Riots, Looting and Arson

Video of building on fire in Croydon neighborhood of London, August 8, 2011

From Anthony Faiola, the Washington PostLawless looting and raging fires engulfed swaths of London on Monday as the wave of civil unrest that has gripped this sprawling capital escalated sharply, including riots in a neighborhood not far from that of the athletes’ village and shiny stadiums built for the 2012 Olympic Games.

The images of violence — with hundreds of youths looting shops, setting businesses ablaze and clashing with police in at least a half-dozen neighborhoods — deeply shocked Londoners, dealing this legendary city an enormously damaging blow less than a year before the start of the Olympics.

Rioters attacked double-decker buses and started a fire that engulfed a street side in south London. Most of a block in the southern neighborhood of Croydon raged in flames.

Prime Minister David Cameron cut short a vacation trip to Italy and was returning to London overnight to chair an emergency cabinet meeting to handle the mounting crisis. The embattled Metropolitan Police called in reinforcements from police forces outside London to help cope. . . .

The increasing unrest — spreading in part via mobile BlackBerry texts, Twitter and other social networking sites — was taking root in the powder keg of poorer neighborhoods largely away from the iconic central heart of London popular with foreign vacationers. A group of rioters attacked a cluster of shops in Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city.

The violence first erupted Saturday night in Tottenham, a gritty north London neighborhood, after the fatal shooting of a black resident by police investigating gun crimes. Those riots triggered a ripple effect among disenfranchised youths in other parts of the city Sunday, and the unrest increased in size and intensity Monday.  (graphic: BBC)

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