Normality amid wreckage


As night fell on the streets of Brixton the scrunch of glass underfoot and the boarded-up shopfronts were the only reminders of Wednesday night's ugly and lawless scenes.

Some plate-glass windows were covered over after the hammering they had taken when gangs ran amok before police baton charges, others were being covered over last night just as a precaution against a repeat performance.

With temperatures plummeting, this seemed unlikely. Commuters sauntered home apparently unfazed by the reports and signs of the damage. A discreet police presence - beat bobbies in their waterproof jackets with long-handled batons poking out beneath the hem - was mostly taken up with directing journalists to where they could get decent pictures of the previous night's damage.

Tucked away in the side streets surrounding Brixton Recreation Centre and at the back of Brixton police station, van-loads of riot squad officers waited in their flame-proof overalls and body armour. They were taking no chances.

A growing press corps had established base camp opposite Lambeth Town Hall. By 7pm, a row of outside broadcast vans, masts high in the air, vied for attention with trees full of Christmas lights and sparkling neon illuminations.

There seemed little prospect of another night of disturbances. But the police were determined to scotch any ideas.

Officers handed out leaflets to people making their way home, which outlined sparse details of Wayne Douglas's death, of a heart condition, stressed that there were no other physical injuries which could have contributed to his death, and stated that the full circumstances were being investigated by the Police Complaints Authority.