London: Police arrested 160 people after a weekend of riots and looting, as scattered copycat violence spread from a disadvantaged north London neighbourhood to other parts of the city, authorities said on Monday.
Groups of young people looted shops, attacked police officers and set fire to vehicles in violence that has raised questions about security ahead of the showcase 2012 Olympics and revealed pent-up anger against the city`s police.
Around 35 police officers were injured, including three who were hit by a car while trying to make arrests in east London.
Officers are "shocked at the outrageous level of violence directed against them”, police commander Christine Jones said.
The violence erupted in the north London suburb of Tottenham on Saturday night amid community anger over a fatal police shooting of a 29-year-old father of four. Police said "copycat criminal" violence spread to other parts of London on Sunday night and early Monday, including the main shopping and tourist district at Oxford Circus.
The protest over the death of Mark Duggan, who was gunned down in disputed circumstances on Thursday, was initially peaceful. But it got ugly as between 300 and 500 people gathered around Tottenham`s police station.
Some protesters filled bottles with gasoline to throw at police lines, others confronted officers with makeshift weapons — including baseball bats and bars — and attempted to storm the station.
Tottenham was relatively peaceful on Sunday night, but the violence spread to Walthamstow Central in east London, where, police said, around 30 youths vandalized and looted some shops. Other groups set fire to shops in Brixton in south London, and another 50 people gathered in Oxford Circus, where they damaged property.
Very few details of Duggan`s death have been released, although police said initially that an officer was briefly hospitalised after the shooting — suggesting there was some kind of an exchange of fire. Media reports said a bullet had been found lodged in the officer`s police radio.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is investigating Duggan`s shooting, provided more details in a statement on Sunday night, saying a "non-police firearm" was recovered at the scene.
Tottenham has a history of unrest. It was the site of the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots, a series of clashes that led to the savaging stabbing of a police officer and the wounding of nearly 60 others — brutally underscoring tensions between London`s police and the capital`s black community.
Relations have improved since, but mistrust still lingers.