Londoners Press Leaders For Action Amid Violence
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
There are thousands of extra police patrolling the streets of London tonight. They're putting on a massive show of force aimed at ending days of rioting and looting. Ten thousand officers have been drafted from outside the city.
For Londoners, so far, it's been a day of cleaning up and demanding answers, as Vicki Barker reports.
VICKI BARKER: In the leafy west London suburb of Ealing, police officers politely wave homecoming commuters away from the road, which saw the worst of last nights rioting. This is still not usable, okay. Thank you.
BARKER: The Starbucks, the betting parlor, the chic boutiques aimed at the middle class professionals who live here, all boarded up. The only vehicles allowed past the police tape are street sweepers, police cars and glaziers' vans.
Lee Barringer has been repairing windows all day.
LEE BARRINGER: We've done about seven shops and I've still got about three more people waiting for us. Some of them a little bit irate now because they want to go home but so do I.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
BARKER: Liz Pilgrim's dress shop was gutted by gangs of rampaging teenagers last night. What they didn't steal, they smashed.
LIZ PILGRIM: They are feral rats. What are those parents doing? Those children should be at home. They shouldn't be out here causing mayhem. I'm absolutely livid, as is everybody else here.
BORIS JOHNSON: I want to say - can you hear me in the back?
(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)
BARKER: London's conservative mayor, Boris Johnson, visited another targeted neighborhood, Clapham Junction, today. Johnson came to praise and publicize volunteer cleanup crews. Instead, he was confronted by angry storeowners.
JOHNSON: Tonight, we're going to have a huge number of police on the streets. And we...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We were told that last night.
JOHNSON: I understand that.
ONIELIAH GERATONO: Where were they? At 5:00, we knew they were going to hit and no one was here. I was in the salon when a brick was tossed through the window. And no one was here to defend me.
JOHNSON: I know. And that is why all we're putting many more police on the streets.
MAN: What about (unintelligible)? What about the response to these families...
JOHNSON: And we are going to...
BARKER: The woman confronting the mayor was hairdresser Onieliah Geratono(ph). Last night she and her staff spent hours logged in the back room of her salon, cowering in terror, as rioters destroyed the business she'd spent 10 years building. She is among those here who say they don't understand why Britain's police and politicians won't send in the Army.
GERATONO: Why aren't they going to do that? Isn't this serious enough? London is turned into a zoo and no one is doing anything.
BARKER: But the government says Britain is a society that polices by consent; sending in troops would make neighborhoods appear under occupation, make the people in those neighborhoods feel like outcasts. They insist the best way to deal with the law-breakers is through the law: hundreds of arrests will lead to hundreds of prosecutions and convictions, they say
For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker in London.
NORRIS: And as Vicki notes, London has been largely quiet this evening. Thousands of police from around the country have been drafted to help London's Metropolitan Police. But there are reports of significant clashes between police and gangs of youth in some of Britain's other major cities. In Manchester, hundreds of youth are reported to have battled with police in the center of the city. In Nottingham, police say a group of 30 to 40 men firebombed a police station. And there have been clashes in several other towns and cities north of London, including Wolverhampton, West Bromwich and Birmingham.
We'll have more on this story elsewhere in the program.
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