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BBC talks to The Point over UK riots

Aug 11, 2011, 12:59 PM | Article By: Alhagie Mbye The Point’s UK correspondent

Following the current riots in London which is flexing the muscles of the Metropolitan Police, the BBC television in the city this morning interviewed our correspondent Alhagie Mbye, over the issue and ‘what he thinks will be the solution’ over the unfortunate incident.  

Areas engulfed by the riots are widely inhabited by thousands of West Africans including Gambians, Senegalese, Sierra Leoneans, Nigerians and Ghanaians.

The rioting started last week and suddenly erupted into violence following a protest over the fatal shooting allegedly by police of Mark Duggan on Thursday in Tottenham.

But the family of Mr Duggan said they were ‘not condoning’ the violence.

Tottenham MP David Lammy, a vocal supporter of the black community in the area, slammed the violent scenes as an ‘attack on the community’.

Nonetheless the violence escalated to other areas such as Hackney, Ealing, Camberwell and Peckham.

On Monday morning, news spread via social networking sites that the youths in Peckham are to join the rioters. Thus most of the shops and buildings there were asked to close their doors. The banks, post offices and other vital institutions also shut down.

The rioting has now spread to other big cities in the country such as Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Nottingham.

However, in response to the questions asked by the BBC, Mr. Mbye stated: ’As long as there are grievances expressed by the youth, the authorities should sit down and talk to them. There is a communication breakdown, and now talking is one of the most important solutions or options  to avert further rioting, and see to it that calm is restored as soon as possible.’

This correspondent added; ‘the current government is doing a very good job in these areas, and they need the support of all the youths in that regard to complement such efforts’.

Back in the street, this correspondent visited the worst hit areas starting from Camberwell Green down to Peckham Police Station, and found several of buildings either set ablaze or looted.

Police officers were trained specifically for such events were deployed in London to help. Some of the press reported that the police ‘surrendered the streets for the rioters to take over’, while others suggested a calm and more flexible approach.

At the Peckham Police Station, over a dozen police men fully equipped with riot gear including batons were permanently stationed there. When they were approached to let through this correspondent, who needed to pass through to the next street called Wood’s Road, one of the officers speaking behind his mask responded politely that ‘the only way through now is the other side of the road’.  

So far there are over 6000 officers taking care of the situation, but Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that 16,000 police officers will be deployed in London, as of yesterday. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Kavanagh confirmed that over 500 people have been arrested, and are helping the police in their investigation. The West Midlands police also made 138 arrests. Over 20 officers were reportedly hurt.

A few meters away from the police station, shops were smashed and the popular pharmacy in the area was not even spared. Earlier, some members of the public said it was only ‘rumour mongering’ and that the youths were not capable of staging such a massive riot in the area.

A well-known businessman said that it was only a ‘bluff’, and kept selling his goods even though the youths were mobilizing. But by 6 pm Monday he was seen packing as the youths arrived in the area masking their faces, and informing police officers that they were coming by 7pm.

‘We are coming at 7pm so be ready’ one of them told officers. By exactly 7pm the unrest started. It is important to note that in most circumstances UK police officers are not allowed to use force on any one.

Responding to questions, a respected security expert in London told The Point that one of the reasons why ‘the trouble was so swift is the fact that the children are currently on vacation, and thus spreading the word and mobilizing themselves easier and quicker’.