Chaos in new urban battleground as violence erupts in North

Thick black choking smoke blew down Market Street, one of the main shopping thoroughfares in Manchester last night, as the city caught the contagion of rioting that is sweeping through Britain. The Miss Selfridge shop had been set alight, only one of around 100 shops smashed and burned as upwards of 2,000 rioters rampaged through the city centre streets.

Thugs wearing ski masks and hoods, armed with sticks and metal poles moved in six or seven groups, each several hundred strong. They ran from hundreds of riot police in full gear, occasionally stopping to confront them, but mainly dodging down side-streets and alleyways, wreaking havoc as they went. Windows were smashed at Marks & Spencer, Diesel clothing shop and a Bang & Olufsen store. Shop mannequins, which had been torn from the shattered windows, lay on the streets like bodies.

At one point 1,000 rioters confronted the police in the central Piccadilly Gardens, throwing stones, bricks and rocks they appeared to have brought with them. The rioters laughed and cheered as they went about their destruction. Police, on horses and in white tactical aid unit vans with protective black grids over the windscreen, pushed the rioters down Market Street but the thugs broke into smaller groups and slipped away to reform elsewhere.

Across the river similar scenes had taken place in Salford where several hundred youths had materialised and – by sheer force of numbers – pushed away police in full riot gear who were protecting the main shopping centre. With the police gone, the centre was looted. More thieves appeared carting off produce from a smashed-up Lidl supermarket. Looters came in cars to fill their boots with plunder. The supermarket was then set on fire. A community centre was also set ablaze, as was the BBC Manchester radio car which had been set upon by a mob. By the end of the night 11 separate fires were burning.

There was evidence everywhere that the riot had been organised and was being directed. Earlier in the day police had arrested a man in Wigan who had been inciting violence on Facebook. Later seven others were arrested by Cheshire Police on similar charges.

But eyewitnesses on the street reported group leaders among the rioters issuing orders. Boys on fast BMX bikes were acting as spotters to report to the leaders where the police were moving. They appeared to be carrying messages between different groups.

One Arndale worker, Rayhan Rezi, 27, told a reporter from the Manchester Evening News: "A small minority would go in one direction to divert police officers and the remaining ones were smashing windows. It was a small minority who were hooded up wearing hats and sunglasses and doing the damage; most were just watching and had come for the loot." Large numbers of curious bystanders remained in the city all evening. Some just gawped; others teetered on the brink of joining in. "Everyone into Oldham Street," one riot leader shouted at one point – and the mob turned and acted on the instruction.

BlackBerry messages had been used earlier in the day to assemble the crowds at the Salford shopping precinct with the group forming at around 3pm and then growing gradually until the windows of a Bargain Booze shop were smashed and the store looted at about 6pm. It seemed to be the signal for the violence to kick off across the city.

A nearby Central Housing Office was then set on fire. Around the same time Miss Selfridge in the city centre was set ablaze. Children as young as eight were milling round on the edge of the violence. One of the city council's elected officials, Councillor Pat Karney, was there when the violence began. "Around 70 of them wearing balaclavas went down Lower Market Street," he told the local paper. "They were aged from 11 to 17 or 18 and were laughing their heads off as they smashed windows."

By midnight the violence had become more sporadic and large sections of the city centre had been reclaimed by lines of riot police. The ground was littered with stones and debris, but the clean-up had already begun.

News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was left red faced but, thankfully, unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards, sending her tumbling off the stage.
peopleIggy Azalea was left red faced but apparently unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition