Riot-squad officers clashed with demonstrators amid chaotic scenes in Tottenham, north London, last night as a protest over the shooting of a man by police turned violent.
Two patrol cars, at least one shop and a double-decker bus were set alight in the main High Road area. Territorial support officers struggled to seal off the road in amid fears police were being outnumbered.
Later in the evening, a Gold Command Operation Centre, which police form during critical disturbances, was set up by chief officers in Lambeth to discuss how to stop the violence spreading.
The protest had begun peacefully with a march involving around 120 people from the Broadwater Farm estate area – the scene of anti-police riots in 1985. They called for "justice" for a father-of-four shot dead by a police officers on Thursday evening.
Named locally as 29-year-old Mark Duggan, the man was shot in nearby Ferry Lane after officers had stopped a minicab for a planned arrest by the Metropolitan Police's Operation Trident team. Two shots were fired by police during the incident, with the man dying at the scene. An officer who was shot at during the exchange was said to have escaped when a bullet lodged inside his police radio. The precise details are being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Last night's demonstration turned ugly as the number of protesters swelled outside the main Tottenham police station.
Two empty parked police cars were set alight and bottles were thrown at officers. Later, shop windows were smashed and looters moved in. There were reports of a safe being removed from a betting shop, while people were seen escaping with trolley loads of stolen goods from other shops. Photographers were attacked as they tried to take pictures.
A double-decker bus set on fire at the top of the road collapsed after little more than 15 minutes, folding in on itself and sending a thick black cloud of smoke into the sky. Back-up police teams arrived on horseback and a helicopter circled above; several fire engines arrived after 11pm and were seen trying to stop the flames to the sound of jeering, as police tackled the rioters.
Journalist David Akinsanya, who lives in Tottenham, told Sky News that he had seen children as young as eight at the scene at the start of the protest, and older children heading to the scene later in the evening as news of the size of the protest spread by mobile phone. "There was a crowd of 200 to 400 getting angry. They were breaking into shops, throwing milk bottles," he said. "There were only 15 officers earlier with riot gear. I don't know why they didn't expect problems beforehand and weren't prepared." He added: "There is a lot of suspicion in the community that [Thursday's shooting] isn't as straightforward as they had been hearing on the news."
Some of the demonstrators said they had not been told the full sequence of how the shooting unfolded. One woman, who declined to give her name, said: "There's a theory that the man who was shot had dropped his gun but they still shot him."
Other protesters said they were marching for "justice for the family".
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "Officers from the Territorial Support Group have been deployed to disperse the crowd. They are dispersed to the north and south of Tottenham police station in the High Road and are subject to bottles and other missiles being thrown at them by the crowd."
Tottenham's Labour MP, David Lammy, speaking last night, said: "The scenes currently taking place in our community are not representative of the vast majority of people in Tottenham. Those who remember the destructive conflicts of the past will be determined not to go back to them."