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The riots in Britain that began in London last weekend has spread throughout the country as rioters clashed with police in Manchester and Birmingham.
Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his vacation to return to a country that seemed to be on the verge of anarchy. As he called on the police to take a tougher stance against the rioters, there was talk of deploying rubber bullets for the first time on the mainland. Until now, they have only been used in Northern Ireland. It was also announced that the police presence in London would increase from 6,000 to 16,000 in a bid to crack down on the civil disorder gripping the capital. In addition, the Army’s emergency infantry battalion could be deployed if the situation worsens.
The riots began after a vigil on Saturday for a London man, Mark Duggan, who was shot during a police operation in north London. Since then, the situation has steadily worsened as the police tried to wrest control of the streets from marauding gangs of thugs. Although initial reports said that Duggan fired at officers, subsequent evidence has shown that that was not the case.
Much of London is now in a state of virtual lockdown, and many businesses are closing early so that their employees can get home before dark. Scotland Yard has come under scrutiny for its failure to rein in the rioters, with officers initially being told to watch and wait rather than proactively pursue the looters. But as public and political pressure mounted, the Metropolitan Police decided to change their tactics and take a more aggressive stance.
The escalating violence forced London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, to return from his own holiday in order to attend to the situation. While visiting one of the areas hardest hit by the riots, Johnson was heckled by Londoners angry with the police. His attempts to deliver a speech were repeatedly disrupted by angry jeering from the crowds.
Although the increased police presence in London appears to have helped stabilize the situation in the capital, violence erupted elsewhere in the UK. In Manchester and Salford, rioters managed to stay one step ahead of the police as they burned and looted throughout the city. In Nottingham, a police station was firebombed, and there were reports that a gun may have been fired at officers in Aston, Birmingham.
It was announced yesterday that the House of Commons, which is currently in recess, is to be recalled so that MPs can debate the riots. This is actually the second time the Commons have been recalled this summer, as they were called back at the end of July in order to discuss the News of the World phone hacking scandal.
So far, almost 700 people have been arrested in London alone in connection with the riots.