The rioting, looting and plunder that started in Tottenham on Saturday has now spread like wildfire throughout the capital. Shops were broken into, properties vandalized, and flats and vehicles set alight by gangs of mostly young men in Croydon, Clapham, Brixton, Hackney, Camden, Lewisham, Peckham, Newham, East Ham, Ilford, Enfield, Woolwich, Ealing, and Colliers Wood. Trouble was also reported in Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, and Nottingham.
Described by witnesses as a ‘warzone’, these are the worst riots to hit London in decades. Over the next few nights, groups of young men, some armed with make-shift weapons and petrol bombs, overwhelmed suburban areas in what was essentially a spontaneous ransacking spree. The chaos has disrupted the lives of thousands of people, rendering them homeless, destroying their businesses, and endangering their livelihoods.
On Monday, at about 4pm, I was talking on the phone to my friend Muddassar Ahmed, CEO of Unitas Communications, while he was driving about town in East Ham where he lives. We were chatting about our plans for a meal round his place to celebrate Ramadan. Suddenly, he said, “Oh my God. There’s a group of, like, 50 young guys and they’re running straight towards me!” Fortunately they ran passed his car, but they continued onto Ilford Lane, which they’d barricaded using crates and boxes.
On Tuesday morning, my dad and stepmother who live in Croydon, where some of the worst violence occurred, told me over the phone how they’d watched as the previous night a gang of about 20 lads smashed their way into the Staples opposite their house and emptied almost the entire superstore. Indeed, many of the images of the carnage captured by journalists have also been revealing – apart from the stealing of expensive luxury items like flat screen televisions and hi-fi systems, a lot of the pillaging has focused on clothes and food.