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Cameron declares a "fightback"

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron speaks to the media outside 10, Downing Street in London, on Wednesday. Cameron said police have drawn up contingency plans to use water cannons if necessary.

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron speaks to the media outside 10, Downing Street in London, on Wednesday. Cameron said police have drawn up contingency plans to use water cannons if necessary.  

In an unprecedented move, marking a break with the more than 150-year-old British tradition of “minimum force”, Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday handed blanket “emergency” powers, including the use of controversial water cannon, previously deployed only in Northern Ireland, to restore order on Britain's streets as rioting engulfed more cities though London had a quiet night after three days of mayhem.

The move followed widespread criticism of the government's handling of the London riots and a long night of violence in Manchester, Salford, Liverpool, Nottingham and Birmingham where, in by now familiar scenes, shops were set on fire and looted by groups of Afro-Caribbean youths wearing face masks and hoods.

There were running battles with police who struggled to control the situation. Three men were killed when in what appeared to be a riot-related hit-and-run accident they were run over by a car in Birmingham.

The government was concerned that scenes of anarchy ruling British high streets and town centres being telecast around the world were hurting the country's image barely months before the London Olympics.

Speaking after a high-level meeting with his Cabinet colleagues and senior police officers, Mr. Cameron announced a “fightback”. The police, he said, had the legal backing to use any tactics necessary to put down continuing violence with contingency plans for use of water cannon available at 24 hours' notice.

The use of plastic bullets and CS gas, a form of teargas, were also reported to have been discussed at the meeting.

Declaring that “we needed a fightback and a fightback is under way”, Mr Cameron said: “This continued violence is simply not acceptable, and it will be stopped. We will not put up with this in our country. We will not allow a culture of fear to exist on our streets.”

So far about 800 people have been arrested since the unrest began four days ago.

Mr. Cameron said the police were working through CCTV evidence and “picture by picture” troublemakers were being identified.

Police in Manchester described Tuesday night's violence as “sickening”. Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said what he witnessed were “the most sickening scenes” of his career.

He warned rioters: “We have your image, we have your face, we have your acts of wanton criminality on film. We are coming for you, from today and no matter how long it takes, we will arrest those people responsible.”

The spark for Britain's worst rioting in more than 20 years was the death of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old Afro-Caribbean youth, in a police shooting in Tottenham, north London last week.

The scale and spread of subsequent violence has shocked people. Many in the Afro-Caribbean community, including Duggan's parents, have condemned “mindless” behaviour of rioters. One Labour MP of Caribbean descent called it “recreational hooliganism” by alienated young people.

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 1:53:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/cameron-declares-a-fightback/article2343168.ece

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