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British leader promises to stamp out riots

'We will not put up with this,' says Prime Minister David Cameron. As London calms down, unrest erupts in Manchester and Birmingham, where three men are run over and killed by a suspected rioter.

August 10, 2011|By Janet Stobart, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from London — Prime Minister David Cameron promised Wednesday that Britain would end the chaos caused by rioters who have looted and burned neighborhoods in London and other cities.

Though London, where the trouble began late Saturday, was calming down, rioters took to the streets in cities such as Manchester and Birmingham, wrecking businesses and homes. In Birmingham, three young men who were guarding a neighborhood and its mosque were run down and killed by a driver suspected of being a rioter.

Photos: London riots spread

Cameron said the violence was the work of "thugs" who come from "pockets of our society that are not just broken, but frankly sick."

"We will not put up with this in our country. We will not allow a culture of fear to exist on our streets," he said after a government emergency committee meeting.

"We will do whatever is necessary to restore law and order on to our streets," Cameron said. "Every contingency is being looked at; nothing is off the table."

The prime miniser visited Wolverhampton, a city near Birmingham, which suffered heavy damage in the rioting.

Rioters also rampaged in Oxford, Reading and Gloucester, an affluent rural town.

Police, who have been authorized to use water cannons and plastic bullets, were making more arrests and courts were holding around-the-clock sessions.

In London, committees from the countries participating in the 2012 Summer Olympics arrived this week for trial events testing the sports venues. They expressed confidence in the city's ability to keep order. But officials were being cautious: Beach volleyball games in a central London parade ground were scheduled to end Wednesday before dark, when the trouble usually starts.

Furious residents and business owners have formed their own defense groups. About 100 Sikh residents of Southall, in west London, guarded their gold-domed temple from looters with baseball and cricket bats.

Herchand Singh Grewal, vice president of London's main Hindu temple, said people were being vigilant and were prepared to cooperate. "Hindu, Muslim and Christians, we're all ready to help each other. If someone in the neighborhood has trouble we all help him," he said."

Looters targeting the East London mosque in Whitechapel were chased away by more than 1,000 residents, and in the north London community of Dalston, a group of mainly Turkish store owners patrolled their own streets.

"I don't want to see vigilantism, but it's fantastic that people want to help each other," said London's mayor, Boris Johnson. He warned of complacency as the city quieted down. "We must set about now the work of repairing and rebuilding, and making sure the loss and the damage people have suffered is compensated."

Opposition leader Ed Miliband went to Manchester and offered encouragement and praise to young volunteers who turned out in pouring rain to help sweep streets strewn with shattered glass, ashes and debris.

London authorities had made more than 800 arrests by Wednesday evening on charges such as burglary, theft and criminal damage to property. At least four courts were trying the cases. Police expected the number of arrests to rise, in part because of an overwhelming public response to pictures of suspected looters posted on the Internet.

Among those arrested are youths from low-income neighborhoods, some as young as 11 and 12, but also a 31-year-old primary school assistant and a 43-year-old chef.

In Manchester and Birmingham, about 100 people were arrested, including a man who allegedly was driving the car that hit the three men as they left a mosque.

Photos: London riots spread

Stobart is a news assistant in The Times' London bureau.

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