Violence compels the British PM to recall parliament


Wed, Aug 10, 2011 - Page 1

British Prime Minister David Cameron recalled parliament from its summer recess yesterday and nearly tripled the number of police on the streets of London to deal with the crisis touched off by three nights of rioting.

Cameron described the scenes of burning buildings and smashed windows in London and several other British cities as “sickening,” but refrained from more extreme measures such as calling in the military to help beleaguered police restore order.

Instead, he said 16,000 officers would be on the streets of the capital last night, almost tripling the number that were on the streets on Monday night. The riots also claimed their first death — a 26-year-old man found shot dead in a car.

“People should be in no doubt that we will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain’s streets and to make them safe for the law-abiding,” Cameron told reporters after rushing home from an Italian vacation to chair a crisis meeting in Downing Street.

A wave of violence and looting raged across London as authorities struggled to contain the country’s worst unrest since race riots set the capital ablaze in the 1980s. Some 525 arrests have been made.

Parliament will return tomorrow, as the political fallout from the rampage takes hold. The crisis is a major test for Cameron’s coalition government.

In London, groups of young people rampaged for a third straight night, setting buildings, vehicles and garbage dumps alight, looting stores and pelting police officers with bottles and fireworks into the early hours.

Police on Monday called in hundreds of reinforcements and volunteer officers — and deployed armored vehicles in some of the worst-hit areas — but still struggled to keep pace with the chaos unfolding at flash points across London, Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool.

The rioters appeared to have little unifying cause — though some claimed to oppose sharp government spending cuts.

However, many were attracted simply by the opportunity for violence.

“Come join the fun,” shouted one youth in the east London suburb of Hackney, where shops were attacked and cars torched.

In Taiwan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday urged Taiwanese not to travel to areas of London that have been affected by the riots.

Last night, the ministry upgraded its travel alert for London from “gray” to “yellow,” while rest of the UK remains in the “gray” alert category, which reminds travelers to pay special attention to their safety.

Department of European Affairs Deputy Director-General Jeffrey Kau (高泉金) said Taiwan’s representative office in Britain has not received any reports of Taiwanese being hurt in the riots.

Additional reporting by CNA