Brixton community slams 'pathetic' rioters

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The Independent Online

"Opportunistic" rioters were branded pathetic and stupid by community leaders today as fears were expressed of more violence to come.

The south London district of Brixton, scene of similar disturbances in the 1980s, bore the brunt of a second night of chaos after thousands of revellers attended a street party in the area.

Homes, cars and a string of major shopping chains and fast food outlets were smashed up amid clashes with police.

As commuters struggled to get to work today after the Tube station was shut down, locals spoke of their fury at the rioters for using the scenes in Tottenham "as an excuse".

Chuka Umunna, Labour MP for nearby Streatham, said it would be "incorrect" to make comparisons with the "anger and frustration arising from the tragic death of a young man in Tottenham and a community that wanted answers".

Speaking outside a police cordon along Brixton Road, he added: "It's shocking, it's completely opportunistic and it's totally unacceptable. Those who are responsible should know we will ensure that the strong arm of the law will come down on those who have damaged and ransacked the local businesses.

"Those in the community and local businesses pay the price for this kind of random violence and people will not put up with it."

Looters swooped on a string of shops - including Currys, WH Smith, Halfords and Foot Locker, which was set on fire - as the scenes spiralled out of control. McDonald's and KFC were also targeted.

Residents condemned the "pathetic" rioters as they surveyed the damage to their shops, with one, Marilyn Moseley, warning of more damage to come.

The 49-year-old sales adviser, who has lived in Brixton for 19 years, said: "It's just an excuse for the young ones to come and rob shops.

"We are going to get people blame the economy and what happened last week but that's not the real reason this happened. This is pathetic and costly for our community reputation.

"I heard the helicopters out last night after the street party. It was inevitable something would happen after people were out drinking all day."

Firefighters were inspecting the burned-out remains of Foot Locker, next to the station, as officers diverted commuters away.

Inside, the blackened building looked to have been completely destroyed, with only charred remains visible from the street.

The windows of the Gamesmaster store in Brixton were also smashed and video games and consoles littered the pavement.

Local Julian Whiting, 48, a former police officer who now works in social media, told how he watched a mob of people going on the rampage last night.

He said the bus he was travelling on was "rocked" and "they were throwing rocks".

"I got off the bus and saw a whole load of police officers and their vehicle had been smashed," he added.

He added: "I think, if you give people an excuse to commit violence, all their prejudices come storming out and with social media people are tweeting so others are coming and joining in and taking advantage of a vulnerable situation."

Williams Falade, 28, from Faversham, Kent, manager of the Fitness First in Stockwell Road, said the gym could not open today after the Nando's restaurant next door was targeted.

He said: "Anger isn't the word - it's pointless."

Another local, Mark Bray, 38, an IT consultant, said: "Police should have seen this coming. There was a festival here yesterday, it is no surprise with Brixton and all its history that the mood has turned sour.

"The looting is pretty pathetic, to be honest - it doesn't do anyone any favours."

In a bid to keep community spirits up, a local bakery was giving out free cupcakes.

One resident, who lives opposite the Effra Road retail park where Currys and Halfords are, says she saw at least 100 youths outside the shops where much of the looting occurred.

She added: "It started at about 11pm and I saw a wheelie bin on fire that had been pushed towards the police. They were running forward and had their headgear on and their shields up.

"There was a crowd of at least a hundred kids, teenage boys and girls, and we saw cars going in and out.

"I saw the riots in '81 and it was nothing compared to that but I was frightened.

"It was so noisy, especially with the helicopters overhead all night and it was going on until at least 3 or 4am."

Steve Reed, leader of Lambeth Council, condemned the "copycat activity" and "opportunistic looting" as "thieving on a mass scale."

He said: "Somebody described is as gangs of kids doing Supermarket Sweep. It was Curry's where they were after plasma screen TVs and H&M and Foot Locker where it was clothes and trainers.

"It was thieving on a mass scale. I've heard stories of people actually trying on clothes and using wheelie bins to fill with goods.

"It wasn't about social issues, it was an opportunity to go on the rob."

He said police levels were already higher than usual after a daytime festival called Brixton Splash and the force was using it as an Olympic preparation event.

He said it was a fine balance to "police sensitively" but added: "I think it is fair to say police were shocked by the scale of what went on in terms of numbers and the violence."

Mr Reed said the council would be fully co-operating with the police to provide CCTV to help identify the perpetrators and said he was worried about what would happen tonight.

He added: "We are asking the Mayor's office for additional police for tonight and the next few nights."