Riots spread to suburbs
As some 16,000 police officers massed on London’s streets Tuesday evening, trying to prevent a fourth straight night of rioting, Cayman officials began to cast a wary eye on what was happening across the Atlantic.
“These are sickening scenes, scenes of people looting, vandalising, thieving, robbing,” said UK Prime Minster David Cameron on Tuesday. “This is criminality, pure and simple and it has to be confronted and defeated.”
On Tuesday at press time in Cayman, more than 525 people had been arrested in London, with about 100 now facing criminal charges.
Violent scenes began to break out Saturday night in north London following the police shooting of a 29-year-old man inside a taxicab the previous Thursday. Relatives of Mark Duggan went to a local police station to protest the incident in a demonstration that started out peacefully.
By early Sunday morning, the northern borough was awash in violence as buildings and vehicles were set ablaze and numerous shops looted as criminal suspects confronted police.
London has seen a wave of what officers have called “copycat criminal activity” since then. In addition to Tottenham in north London, boroughs like Lambeth in the south-east, Camden on the near north side, East Ham, Croydon to the south and even Ealing near west London saw incidents of violence.
As the week started, violence broke out elsewhere in England including Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham and Bristol.
Despite the well-publicised vandalism and criminality that appeared to be spreading across the country, travel agency representatives in Cayman said they have received no indication that anyone here had cancelled travel plans to the UK.
“Most of the stuff that’s happening is not in areas where the tourists go anyway,” said Steve Pillar of Travel Pros. The firms Cayman Travel Services, Travel City and Cayman 123 Travel also noted no cancellations because of the violence breaking out in the UK.
Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor declined to make a statement related to the UK violence, but representatives indicated he was monitoring the situation. The overseas territories conference set for London this year was not scheduled until November, the governor’s aides said.
Caymanian Compass Sports Editor Ron Shillingford, who is currently home spending time with his family in northwest London, said the violence – while terrible – seemed to be confined to specific areas.
“There are about 10 places in London where you don’t want to be at night right now,” Mr. Shillingford said. “But we’re quite safe.”
About the districts of Lambeth, Brixton, Hackney and Tottenham, Mr. Shillingford said, “They’re horrible.”
In Liverpool, Compass tourism and travel reporter Joe Shooman was attending a barbecue near Windsor Street on Monday just before rioting started there. Windsor Street is one of the main hot spots for disturbances that occurred in the Liverpool area.
“We got out of there just in time,” Mr. Shooman said.
“It’s upsetting to see the city in flames 30 years on from the 1981 riots,” he said. “Cars overturned and in flames and the police station windows smashed in, 20 yards from the house where Ringo Starr was born.”
Mr. Shooman, speaking at around 5.30pm England time, said there was “a sense of tension” about what might happen in Liverpool on Tuesday night.
Police officers in Cayman with long-time connections to England, like Royal Cayman Islands Police Chief Superintendent John Jones have also been keeping a close eye on the situation.
“I saw with some concern my home city [Birmingham] was subject to rioting with the police station set on fire,” Mr. Jones said. “But [England] experienced riots in the 70’s and also in the 80’s in my home police force.
“The scale that’s being experienced at the moment has been described as the worst in living memory. That says a lot, especially for the Metropolitan Police to be saying that.”
Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the UK Metropolitan Police Stephen Kavanagh said the use of plastic bullets, or less-than-lethal rounds – which have never before been fired to deal with riots in England – would be “considered carefully” if further rioting was to break out.
“That does not mean we are scared of using any tactic,” he said.
UK Met police had earlier ruled out using the British army to control the situation. However, the police have called in additional officers to ensure five times the usual number of available cops would be on duty during the next three days.
Compass journalists Joe Shooman, Ron Shillingford and Brent Fuller contributed to this report.