Riots that consumed London spread to other cities in England last night, and not surprisingly, affected residents took to sites like Facebook and Twitter to discuss the damage. Efforts to organize attacks via services like BlackBerry Messenger, meanwhile, gave way to online cleanup efforts.
Riotcleanup.com is currently tracking recovery efforts throughout London. People are scheduled to gather at the Brixton tube station tonight at 6:30pm local time, for example, while others will meet up outside Bruce Grove Station at 8:30am tomorrow. Additional details are also available on the group’s Twitter account and Facebook Page.
In some cases, onlookers have reported that local officials are already handling things. A man who stopped by Hackney Town Hall, for example, said that in the 40 minutes he was there, “a good 30 people arrived, saw there was nothing left to do and dispersed, most to go to Clapham . In short, it was pretty much sorted. The main point is that people turned up and shifted the focus back onto localism/community.”
How did this happen?
The riots were sparked last week by the police shooting of 29-year-old taxi passenger Mark Duggan; violence started the following day when bottles were thrown at two patrol cars near a police station, setting them ablaze, according to a BBC timeline of events. Attacks escalated in recent days, spreading last night to cities like Birmingham, Bristol, and Liverpool.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver tweeted that the riots claimed his Birmingham restaurant. “Sadly my restaurant in Birmingham got smashed up windows all gone whole area closed, cant open, staff and customers all safe!!thankfully jox,” he wrote.
Another building that didn’t survive was a Sony DADC warehouse in Enfield, which was set ablaze (video below). Those hoping to loot PlayStations, however, were likely disappointed; the warehouse produces CDs and DVDs. Last night’s fire is potentially devastating to several independent record labels that housed their stock at the warehouse, The Guardian reported.
One piece of technology that reportedly aided rioters was BlackBerry Messenger, which allowed gangs of teenagers to communicate in a secret and untraceable manner. According to a recent study from the U.K.’s Office of Communication (Ofcom), approximately 37 percent of U.K. teens have BlackBerrys, a preference that is driven primarily because of access to BBM, which allows free texting between BlackBerry owners.
In a Monday statement, Research in Motion said it was cooperating with authorities on the matter.
“As in all markets around the world where BlackBerry is available, we cooperate with local telecommunications operators, law enforcement and regulatory officials,” RIM said. “Similar to other technology providers in the U.K. we comply with The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and co-operate fully with the Home Office and U.K. police forces.”
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, or RIPA, is a law enacted in 2000 that allows for government interception of communications, particularly as it relates to the Internet and encrypted electronic communications.
Scotland Yard, meanwhile, issued a warning to rioters, promising to “identify you and bring you to justice.”
The agency today started releasing photos of alleged looting suspects, captured by surveillance cameras, which will be housed on the Metropolitan Police’s Flickr page. If anyone recognizes those pictured, they can call the Major Investigation Team at 020 8345 4142 or report someone anonymously via the Crimestoppers line at 0800 555 111.
Temporary police commissioner Tim Godwin said today that “there are no plans for the army to get involved.” In the next 24 hours, Scotland Yard has pledged to put 16,000 officers on the street. As of last night, police had arrested 334 people and charged 69.
According to The Guardian, last night’s violence claimed its first life; a man died after being shot in his car in Croydon, south London.