What Happened Last Night in the London Riots
Rolling pin-wielding restaurant staff and Iranian finger-wagging
As London experiences what police officers are calling the "worst rioting and looting in living memory"--with violence raging for a third straight night in several London neighborhoods and locations outside the capital after a fatal police shooting on Thursday--many fascinating stories are getting passed around the web this morning. Here are some of the most noteworthy:
- Three times as many police at royal wedding Amidst criticism that British law enforcement hasn't effectively responded to the riots, Gawker noted that the U.K. had dispatched 1,700 police officers to the riots compared with 5,000 for the Royal Wedding British. Prime Minister David Cameron has since announced that he will up the number of police officers on London streets tonight from 6,000 to 16,000.
- Independent record labels lose all their inventory The Guardian notes that a Sony DADC distribution warehouse in north London burned to the ground on Monday night, destroying the entire inventory of the Pias Group, the primary distributor for more than 150 independent music labels. Reuters has a photo of the destroyed building:
- Restaurant staff to the rescue Gawker points us to a story of staff at the upscale Ledbury restaurant attacking looters with "rolling pins, fry baskets, and other dangerous kitchen tools." The staff also showered diners with champagne and whisky and hid them in a wine cellar.
- Heroism in Hackney The New Statesman notes that in Hackney, "Kurds (some of them former Peshmerga fighters) and Turks bravely defended their shops and restaurants with bats and sticks." The site also points to a clip of a West Indian resident pleading with rioters to stop the violence in an impassioned, invective-laden speech:
- Crowdsourcing law enforcement Police officials, who are having trouble identifying the hooded, masked young people carrying out the riots (there's even a more philosophical debate going on about whether the perpetrators are opportunistic criminals or urban poor), have posted pictures and CCTV images of alleged looters to Flickr and asked Londoners to help them with the identification effort. The police are also partnering with BlackBerry smartphone maker Research in Motion to trace messages to organizers and potentially even suspend the messaging service, and turning to other social networking sites like Twitter for additional clues. A non-official effort--the Catch a Looter Tumblr--has also been set up, though it states that it "does not support vigilante action" and is "merely using social media to collate all images in one place."
- Iran urges British police to show restraint Iran, which used force to squash the protests that erupted after its disputed 2009 presidential election, has seized on the riots to wag its finger at the West. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast urged the British government to show "restraint," end its "violent confrontation with the people," sit down with the "protesters to "listen to their demands," and permit "independent human rights organizations to investigate the killing in order to protect the civil rights and civil liberties," according to Iran's Press TV (today British police are reporting the first fatality of the riots--a 26-year-old man who was shot in a car in Croydon).
- China worries about safety of 2012 Olympics China faced its own safety concerns--civil unrest in Tibet, terrorist attacks by Xinjiang separatists, high levels of air pollution--before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But that hasn't stopped the state-run news agency Xinhua from writing, "After the riots, the image of London has been severely damaged, leaving the people skeptical and worried about the public security situation during the London Olympics."
- Egyptians parse riots Fresh from their revolution in February, Egyptian activists watching the London riots arrived at various conclusions, as cataloged by The New York Times. "Egyptians and Tunisians took revenge for Khaled Said and Bouazizi by peacefully toppling their murdering regimes, not stealing DVD players," wrote blogger Mosa'ab Elshamy. "I dont support looting or burning but when u marginalize a community 4 decades u have to except something like this to happen," blogger Nora Shalaby responded.
As the day goes on, you can track how the riots are spreading on this map from The Guardian and on this live blog from the BBC. Sky News' Mark Stone, whose reporting from London earned him a spot in Twitter's trending topics on Monday, has posted these startling overnight videos from rioting in Clapham Junction. One looter in the second video tells Stone she's "getting her taxes back."