Police in London are in the process of “restoring calm” to an area of the U.K. capital after rioting led to 26 officers being injured and 48 arrests.
Metropolitan Police officers faced “extreme violence” during the disturbances in Tottenham, in the north of the city, late yesterday in which vehicles and buildings were set on fire, Commander Adrian Hanstock said in a televised press conference today. London Fire Brigade said it received 264 emergency calls from the area during the riots.
Trouble flared after a peaceful protest by relatives and friends of a man shot dead during a police operation in the area last week was “hijacked by troublemakers,” Hanstock said.
“There was no indication that the protest would deteriorate into the levels of criminal and violent disorder that we saw,” Hanstock said. “We believe that certain elements, who were not involved with the vigil, took the opportunity to commit disorder and physically attack police officers, verbally abuse fire brigade personnel and destroy vehicles and buildings.”
He said the death of Mark Duggan, 29, was “regrettable” and will be subject to an independent investigation. “It is absolutely tragic that someone has died, but that does not give a criminal minority the right to destroy businesses and people’s livelihoods and steal from their local community.”
Rioters threw petrol bombs at police and buildings, the British Broadcasting Corp. said. A bus and two police vehicles were set on fire and business were looted, it reported.
London Fire Brigade said in an e-mailed statement it attended 49 “primary” fires in the Tottenham area.
The rioting was “utterly unacceptable,” Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said in an e-mailed statement. “There is no justification for the aggression the police and the public faced, or for the damage to property.”
Home Secretary Theresa May said “disregard for public safety and property will not be tolerated, and the Metropolitan Police have my full support in restoring order.”
The Metropolitan Police later said it has opened a “major investigation” into the violence, codenamed Operation Withern.