A street riot tore through parts of north London's impoverished Tottenham neighborhood last night. Eight officers were hospitalized after a protest against the shooting death of a young man blew up into a full-scale riot— torching a double-decker bus, destroying patrol cars and trashing a shopping mall, the AP reported.
"Looters descended on the area around midnight, setting buildings alight, and piling stolen goods into cars and shopping carts. Sirens could be heard across the capital as authorities rushed reinforcements to the scene."
"This is just a glimpse into the abyss," former Metropolitan Police Commander John O'Connor told Sky News television Sunday. "Someone's pulled the clock back and you can look and see what's beneath the surface. And what with the Olympic Games coming up, this doesn't bode very well for London."
Some 42 people have been arrested, while 26 police officers were injured during the riots. Two remain in hospital. Police were unable to say whether there were fatalities overnight, the Guardian reported today.
Police admitted they "had not anticipated" the violence, the NY Daily News reported, which came in response to the death of 29-year-old Mark Duggan, shot to death by officers on Thursday.
What began as a peaceful vigil for Duggan exploded into city-wide riots when the event was "hijacked by mindless thugs," police told the Guardian.
Some reports suggested an altercation between a female and police may have sparked wider violence. She reportedly threw an object at police and was set upon by policemen with riot shields.
Journalist and Tottenham resident Rizwana Hamid, said Saturday night's violence was reminiscent of a 1985 riot in Tottenham, home to one of London's largest black communities, the AP reported. "The climate has changed, but very little of the issues have gone away," she told the BBC.
She cited desperation, poverty and what she said was a lack of communication from police about the circumstances under which the man was gunned down.
British media said that an officer involved in the shooting had a bullet lodged in his radio, suggesting a gunfight, but Britain's police watchdog is investigating.
Scotland Yard, has struggled for years to cope with a 1999 inquiry into the death of a black British teenager that concluded that the force was "institutionally racist." In 2003, the Black Police Association even went as far as to call on ethnic minorities not to join Scotland Yard, saying discrimination was rife.