Tuesday, August 9, 2011

British police face public anger as riots rage

Britons swept up, patched up and feared further violence Tuesday, demanding police do more to protect them after three nights of rioting left looted stores, torched cars and blackened buildings across London and several other U.K. cities.
Police said they were working full-tilt, but found themselves under attack — from rioters roaming the streets, from a scared and worried public, and from politicians whose cost-cutting is squeezing police numbers ahead of next year's Olympic Games.
London's Metropolitan Police force vowed an unprecedented operation to stop more rioting, flooding the streets Tuesday with 16,000 officers, nearly three times Monday's total.
Although the riots started Saturday with a protest over a police shooting, they have morphed into a general lawlessness that police have struggled to halt with ordinary tactics. Police in Britain generally avoid tear gas, water cannons or other strong-arm riot measures. Many shops targeted by looters had goods that youths would want anyway — sneakers, bikes, electronics, leather goods — while other buildings were torched apparently just for the fun of seeing something burn.
Police said plastic bullets were "one of the tactics" being considered to stop the looting. The bullets were common in Northern Ireland during its years of unrest but have never before been used in mainland Britain.
But police acknowledged they could not guarantee there would be no more violence. Stores, offices and nursery schools in several parts of London closed early amid fears of fresh rioting Tuesday night, though pubs and restaurants were open. Police in one London district, Islington, advised people not to be out on the streets "unless absolutely necessary."More...

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