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Sunday, August 7, 2011

We warned Tottenham situation could get out of control:community leaders

LONDON — As London surveyed the damage Sunday in the hours after a small anti-police demonstration in a north London neighborhood spiraled into looting and violent clashes that left 26 police officers injured and led to 55 arrests, many sought to cast the blame wider than the rioters themselves.

In Tottenham, the center of the rioting, residents spoke of twin perils that had converged to leave their streets scarred and smoldering Sunday.

Frustration in this impoverished neighborhood, as with many others in Britain, has mounted as the government’s austerity budget has forced deep cuts in services and aid. At the same time, a widely held disdain for law enforcement here, where a large Afro-Caribbean population has felt singled out by the police for abuse, has only intensified through the drumbeat of scandal that has wracked Scotland Yard in recent weeks and led to the resignation of the force’s two top commanders.

The riot was the latest in what has turned out to be a season of unrest in Britain, with multiple demonstrations escalating into violence in recent months. And there was not long to wait until a new one broke out: on Sunday night, in the northern borough of Enfield, the police were out in force to crack down on looters amid a demonstration hastily organized on Twitter posts, the police said in a statement.

The incident in Tottenham began as a small and peaceful march, in which residents gathered outside a police station to protest the killing of a local man, Mark Duggan, in shooting by police officers last week. Scotland Yard has said that Mr. Duggan, who was riding in a taxi at the time of the shooting, was the subject of a “pre-planned operation” by officers. The policemen involved in the incident have been quoted in newspapers as saying that they had come under fire, which slightly wounded one of the officers, before they began to shoot.

There were also claims that police were warned on Thursday evening and Friday morning by people with knowledge of Tottenham that there could be "significant" community reaction to Duggan's death.

Duggan's fiancee, Semone Wilson, 29, said the family had not wanted trouble, only answers. "When we were outside the police station last night we wanted someone to come out. We want some answers. I have not even told my children that he is dead because we cannot give them any answers."

Of the violence, Wilson said: "I am not happy about what has happened. We didn't want this trouble. We wanted some answers."

Shaun Hall, Duggan's older brother, said the family was "not condoning any kind of actions like that at all, or for this [action] to be taken in my brother's name". He appealed to people in the community who were frustrated and angry to "try and hold it down".

The family were "devastated" at his death, with "the most gruelling" thing for Duggan's parents being that nobody had officially informed them what had happened. He dismissed allegations that Duggan had shot at police as "rubbish".

The IPCC commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne met family members after accusations that they had been left unsupported and isolated since Thursday's shooting.

While Cerfontyne, who is running the independent investigation, is not thought to have met the family until Sunday, the IPCC – faced with criticism from the family – said it had been in regular contact.

Forensic examiners were slowly and painstakingly working their way through the crime scene as part of the police investigation. Officers from the homicide and serious crime command and specialist investigators from the public order branch were reviewing CCTV footage and taking witness statements.
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