There's panic in the streets of London as a spate of rioting and looting that had erupted in poorer parts of the city over the weekend spread to new neighborhoods on the night of Monday, Aug. 8. Other cities, including Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, and Bristol have also seen violent disturbances. The unrest kicked off on Saturday after a protest over the Aug. 4 fatal shooting by police of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old from the Tottenham neighborhood in northern London.
Violence reached a new level with the first confirmed fatality of the riots: a 26-year-old man was shot in a car in Croydon, South London, on Monday night and died in a hospital.
The riots, now in their fourth consecutive day, are being led by gangs of young people and organized in part via BlackBerry instant messaging, the encrypted messages from which are more difficult for the police to monitor. The violence is steadily escalating: smashed windows and looted stores have led to the arson of vehicles and buildings and mass confrontations with riot police. At least 563 people have been arrested thus far in London, while 138 have been arrested in Birmingham. About 30 police officers were reported injured as of daytime Monday, but an additional 44 police officers were injured that same night.
Many in Britain are blaming the violence on recent economic turmoil and longstanding tensions between the police and the city's Afro-Caribbean population, of which Duggan was a member. According to one minister of Parliament, David Winnick, the relationship between police and minority communities along with "continuing deprivation, growing unemployment, a feeling of lack of opportunity [...] makes a pretty toxic mix."
Prime Minister David Cameron cut his Tuscan vacation short to return to London for a Cabinet-level meeting on Tuesday to address the violence. He announced a tripling of police on London's streets -- officers on duty will rise from 6,000 on Monday night to 16,000 on Tuesday.. Additionally, Cameron has recalled Parliament to for an emergency meeting on Thursday. The Metropolitan Police have reported receiving over 20 million calls, four times the normal number, on Monday night and have dubbed Monday night's violence the worst in living memory, according to senior police officers.
Londoners have joined forces with authorities to clean up the city, organizing via social media, including a new Twitter account, @Riotcleanup, which gained over 77,000 followers in less than a day. Forbes blogger Parmy Olson alluded to the famous London World War II-era slogan, "Keep Calm and Carry On," that captured local spirit:
The initiative offers locals a chance to confront the powerlessness they may feel about remedying a chaotic situation, and tap into the getting-on-with-it spirit of Londoners made famous by the city's reaction to the Blitz in World War II. The idea is, throw anything at Britain's capital and locals will handle it with aplomb and some irreverence.
The problem is, however, that there are a lot of people still throwing things in Britain's capital.