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London is burning and all the world's aTwitter

Beginning late Saturday night, London has been ravaged by rioting and violence. It appears to have stemmed from the shooting of a man named Mark Duggan by police. The main problem being reported is that's all the credible information that has been disseminated. There are rumors that he was a drug dealer and the founder of a gang, and rumors that he was a dedicated family man. There are rumors that he instigated a shoot out with police and rumors that he only had a replica gun and police just gunned him down. Meanwhile, it's August, people are on holidays and we've even had a couple of very hot days and nights. Saturday night wasn't one of them, unless yours was one of the flats, businesses or vehicles set ablaze.

Shockingly, it seems that the majority of the trouble makers are children. Many young teenagers (15 and under), but also people are reporting kids as young as 10. They are looting shops and now, setting fire to buildings. People are being made homeless and one 26-year-old man has died of gunshot wounds, while an elderly man has been hospitalized after he was knocked down during a riot.

I had my first dentist appointment today and he said he lives close to Croyden where he said there was trouble just at the end of his road. A friend of his had just gone into his house last night when he looked out his window to see a group of kids surround a moving BMW. They brought it to a halt, dragged the driver out of the car and drove away.

Sainsbury's closed at 5pm tonight

Police presence at Victoria Station 5pm

Police vans instead of taxis at Victoria
The Metropolitan Police say they have 16,000 police on the streets tonight and some of them are walking beats all around Victoria, which is under threat of attack tonight. They are talking to people and shop owners and generally just making themselves seen. As of 5pm pretty much every shop was closing, the bank was closing and even some of the restaurants and cafes. Even the Marks & Spencers in Victoria Station had locked its doors to the street and was only allowing customers in from the station, which had at least a dozen officers walking around inside. Outside the station were police vans replacing the usual taxis and at least 7 or 8 groups of officers standing around. It was a strange atmosphere of rush hour in a ghost town. Thousands of people leaving work, but no shops open. A mix of anger, nervousness and just getting on with life. Naturally, the pubs that were still open were filled with people who had been let out of work early. Nothing messes with the English desire for a good gin and tonic or pint, I guess.

One of the major organizing tools that the youths are using are social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. There are also claims that virtual invitations have been going out via text message and the Black Berry Messaging system. Come on down to your local riot. Free stuff and general mayhem. Not an exact quotation, naturally, as I have not been privy to such an invitation, but that's my understanding of what's going around. In an attempt to take back the city other residents have been using the same methods to call for cleanups. Today in Clapham Junction there was a major cleanup that has apparently gone viral on YouTube.
Commuters and dozens of police at Victoria Station

See photos of the riots here.

It's despicable behaviour and one has to wonder what the parents of these children are thinking and doing. No doubt some of these kids were in trouble and uncontrollable before now, but according to the BBC several of them made court appearances today and were upstanding citizens before the last couple of days. One would hope that parents would keep their kids indoors, if for no other reason than their own safety.

The riots are now spreading with violence and crime last night in Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol. Oh, and breaking news: Riots in Manchester city centre. Clearly not a political protest. This is just people rioting for rioting's sake.

Interestingly, there are people complaining about the mayor's plan to flood the streets with five times the usual amount of police officers. They reckon that the issues are bigger than rioting and that because we can't possibly sustain a level of 16,000 officers on the streets at all time, we should be addressing the larger issues instead. Really? I'm not sure that we can solve the alienated youth problem today, so perhaps we should stop the rioting while addressing the big problems. Seems like this is a situation where we ought to be prioritizing, not waxing philosophical.

In the meantime, though, we batten down the hatches and thank the 16,000 police who are at work tonight.

Here we go for another night in The Lord of the Flies.