London Riots Spread Through the Rest of Britain

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Photo: Matthew Lord/Getty Images

In case you weren't sure whether to retreat into your bunker yet, this should pretty much seal the deal. The riots that began in the North London borough of Tottenham on Saturday after a local man was shot by police quickly spread to other parts of the city. Even tony Notting Hill. But while last night London itself had an "eerie calm," rioting and looting spread to the streets of several other U.K. cities, including Birmingham and Manchester. The relative London quiet might have had something to do with the 16,000 police on duty, nearly triple the number who'd been working on the previous day. Other cities seemed less equipped to deal with the sudden violence than the capital was. In Nottingham, rioters set fire to two police stations. In Liverpool, a crowd of 200 threw missiles at city officials. Police have been making arrests — 44 in Liverpool, for instance — but the leader of the far-right group the English Defense Group has promised, somewhat chillingly, that his group will shut down rioters since police are struggling to do so.

None of this is good PR for a country looking to put its best foot forward in the Summer Olympics next year. As London celebrates the one-year countdown to the 2012 Games, it's hard to avoid the question of how the event might be affected by the rioting. Right now, the main Olympic Stadium stands just a few miles away from all of London's smoldering cars and buildings. Foreign athletes are starting to get frantic phone calls from worried family members back home. But nothing's been cancelled. Officials from the International Olympic Committee, who happened to be in London this week for meetings about the 2012 Games, say they aren't concerned.


Mark Adams, a spokesman for the I.O.C., said the committee was not worried about the security of next summer’s Olympics because it had confidence in the Games organizers. Officials from the United States Olympic Committee said they were not fretting that the Games would be dangerous.

Disputing the notion that the riots were the beginning of an all-out class war, Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson told the Associated Press that "all the evidence shows this trouble is low-level criminality driven by messages on social networks and not some new, emerging security threat.” Of course, that didn't stop U.K. officials from canceling a Wednesday soccer match between England and the Netherlands, citing concerns that the unrest would prevent police officers from patrolling the stadium.

Whatever happens, hopefully these riots will prompt some national soul-searching, and Britain will finally get rid of that disturbing Olympic logo.

London Rioting Prompts Fears Over Soccer and Olympics [NYT]
UK riots: disorder spreads to Manchester and West Midlands [Guardian UK]
Olympic Host City Under Scrutiny Amid London Riots [ABC News]
Police calm London, but riots flare across UK [AP]