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London riots: More than 1,000 arrested as unrest continues

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Tensions flared in Birmingham, where a murder probe was opened after three men were killed in a hit-and-run incident as they took to the streets to defend shops from looting.

(Photo: Associated Press)

Chris Sims, chief constable of West Midlands Police, said a man had been arrested on suspicion of murder. Police on Thursday were given more time to question him.

"We needed a fightback and a fightback is under way," Cameron said in a somber televised statement outside his Downing Street office after a meeting of the government's crisis committee. He said "nothing is off the table" — including water cannons, commonly used in Northern Ireland but never deployed in mainland Britain.

Senior police officers, however, indicated they had no plans to use water cannons.

The violence has revived debate about the Conservative-led government's austerity measures, which will slash 80 billion pounds ($130 billion) from public spending by 2015 to reduce the country's swollen budget deficit.

Cameron's government has slashed police budgets as part of the cuts. A report last month said the cuts will mean 16,000 fewer police officers by 2015.

London Mayor Boris Johnson — like Cameron, a Conservative — broke with the government to say such cuts are wrong.

"That case was always pretty frail and it has been substantially weakened," he told BBC radio. "This is not a time to think about making substantial cuts in police numbers."

Scenes of ransacked stores, torched cars and blackened buildings have frightened and outraged Britons just a year before their country is to host next summer's Olympic Games, bringing demands for a tougher response from law enforcement.

Britain's soccer authorities were talking with police to see whether this weekend's season-opening matches of the Premier League could still go ahead in London. A Wednesday match between England and the Netherlands at London's Wembley stadium was canceled.

Britain's riots began Saturday when an initially peaceful protest over a police shooting in London's Tottenham neighborhood turned violent. That clash has morphed into general lawlessness in London and several other cities that police have struggled to halt.

While the rioters have run off with goods every teen wants — new sneakers, bikes, electronics and leather goods — they also have torched stores apparently just to see something burn. They were left virtually unchallenged in several neighborhoods, and when police did arrive they often were able to flee quickly and regroup.

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