London riots: actions and reactions

UPDATED: Churches are responding as the riots in Tottenham have spread to 3 cities in England.

Blackberry encrypted instant messaging being investigated for widening the looting, according to the Toronto Star.

Businesses, homes, cars and fire trucks were ablaze early Tuesday morning as police struggled to respond to looting and violence in a third night of riots across the British capital.

Violence spread Monday to both middle class and more impoverished neighbourhoods in London. Riots also flared outside London for the first time in Manchester and Liverpool in northern England. A police station was set on fire in Birmigham, about 200 kilometres northwest of London.

British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his holiday and was expected to chair a meeting Tuesday of the government’s emergency response committee Cobra.

At least 225 people have been arrested and 36 charged in riots that began Saturday night after a peaceful protest in a North London community turned violent.

Twitter and text messaging are being blamed for aiding organizers of the riots. Research in Motion announced Monday night it will work with police investigating the use of Blackberry instant messaging.

One BBM message sent Sunday, which has been shown to the Guardian by multiple sources, calls on “everyone from all sides of London” to vandalize shops on Oxford street.

It said: “Everyone from all sides of London meet up at the heart of London (central) OXFORD CIRCUS!!, Bare SHOPS are gonna get smashed up so come get some (free stuff!!!) f— the feds we will send them back with OUR riot! >:O Dead the ends and colour war for now so if you see a brother… SALUT! if you see a fed… SHOOT!”

BBC reports here.

The Anglican Communion News Service reports:

Tottenham’s Faith Leaders to Host ‘Vigil of Hope’

From the Diocese of London

Tottenham’s faith leaders, politicians and youth leaders from across the local community will tonight (Monday 8 August) attend a Vigil of Hope, in a united response to the weekend’s violence.

The event is open to everyone with a desire to stand together in hope, irrespective of religion or background, and will take place from 7-8pm at The High Cross in Tottenham, situated at the junction of High Road and Monument Way.

The vigil has been organised by local churches from the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and Pentecostalist and Independent churches, with representatives from the Muslim and Jewish faiths also expected to attend, along with David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, and Leader of Haringey Council, Claire Kober. The event will include collective prayers for the community and addresses from faith leaders.

The Bishop of Edmonton, local bishop for the Diocese of London (Church of England), the Rt Revd Peter Wheatley said: “These events cannot be allowed to define the Tottenham we know and love.

The blog Cranmer writes about St. Mary the Virgin Church in the center of the riot torn area:

… with the still small voice of an email inviting people to assist those most affected by the appalling and unwarranted violence. …It’s just the good old CofE doing what the CofE has always done – getting on with ministering in the local community. The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Lansdowne Road, Tottenham is currently in an interregnum and so without a parish priest. It has therefore fallen to Assistant Curate Fr. Simon Morris to lead his parish ministry at this time.

Subject: This Week

Date: Mon, 8 Aug 2011

Dear Friends,

This is to assure you all that Masses and other services will happen at both churches as normal.

At S. Mary’s we are currently providing food and drink to people who have lost homes, who have had no electricity and who are working on the old Carpet Right building. If people feel able to help, then please make your way to S. Mary’s. I am very grateful to those who have kept this going since yesterday morning.

On Sunday 14th August, we will have a procession during the 10am Mass to make God’s presence known on these streets that have seen such violence.

10am Mass will be followed by a Bring and Share lunch to cheer us up and to demonstrate that we are not broken by the violent acts of others. Please make every effort to come along. I do not know whether the crossroads at Lansdowne Road will be open or not, but entry to the Church is still possible from the other side of Lansdowne Road.

Wishing you very blessing.


Fr S.J. Morris

Assistant Curate,

Martin Fletcher at MSNBC World Blog writes:

As political and social protests grip the Middle East, are growing in Europe and a riot exploded in north London this weekend, here’s a sad truth, expressed by a Londoner when asked by a television reporter: Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?

“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”

The TV reporter from Britain’s ITV had no response. So the young man pressed his advantage. “Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”

The looting and rioting had nothing at all to do with the killing of Mark Duggan. That was the spark. The bonfire had been prepared by years of neglect, fueled by the anger of young men with no stake in the system, angry at everybody and quick to exploit fury at the killing of a local man, even if he did allegedly fire at the police officer first.

So now the question people in Tottenham are asking is: Will the government pay attention to the social issues underlying the anger?

And a wider question is: Would anyone care at all if there had not been violence?

The Guardian details the history of rioting in this area of London:

Images of blackened skeletons of burnt-out buildings and streets littered with the charred debris of a night of violence and looting will be familiar to anyone who lived through the riots that left a trail of destruction across inner cities in the 1980s, sparking a lasting debate about policing and social integration in Britain.

The allegations and counter-allegations of teenagers and the authorities about heavy-handed or incompetent policing are also reminiscent of 30 years ago.

The sequence of events in Tottenham at the weekend has many echoes of the Toxteth riots in Liverpool of 1981, as well as unrest in Tottenham itself in 1985 and other incidents of unrest that decade: a local flashpoint in a deprived urban area, the rapid escalation of a local protest into mayhem as others pile into the area – and long summer nights.

Statement by the Bishop of London is here.

Damian Thompson of The Telegraph wonders why the Archbishops of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches have not spoken. (UPDATE) Archbishop Vincent Nichols (RC) has now made a statement. (see below).

The Church of England has issued this prayer and the Diocese of London has asked all to join Pray4London:

A prayer for peace in our communities

Gracious God,

We pray for peace in our communities this day.

We commit to you all who work for peace and an end to tensions,

And those who work to uphold law and justice.

We pray for an end to fear,

For comfort and support to those who suffer.

For calm in our streets and cities,

That people may go about their lives in safety and peace.

In your mercy, hear our prayers,

now and always. Amen

Join Pray4London at Facebook

“The scenes of the last few nights in parts of London and elsewhere are shocking. The criminal violence and theft that have been witnessed are to be condemned. They are a callous disregard for the common good of our society and show how easily basic principles of respect and honesty are cast aside. ”

“I ask that Catholics pray especially for those directly affected by the violence, for those facing danger on the streets, for those whose livelihood has been ruined, for those whose lives are marked by fear, for those whose parents are worried about the behaviour of their youngsters and for those who, at this time, are being tempted into the ways of violence and theft.”

“In the face of these difficulties, a forthright common effort is needed to ensure that these times bring out the best in our society and not the worst. I am sure that, as Catholic citizens, we shall play our part with clear principles for living, both as individuals and as a society, with honesty, compassion and prayer.”

“May God grant us courage and determination to shape our lives with dignity, self respect and care for the common good.”

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