"They called themselves protesters. This is a protest," said Rachel Philips, defiantly waving her broom outside Clapham Junction station. She was one of thousands who mobilised to clean up the morning after the worst civil unrest on Britain's streets for many decades. "Bring gloves, heavy duty sacks, brooms, brushes and marker pens," instructed a Twitter feed, @RiotCleanUp. It had over 70,000 followers within hours.
The police were rather more effective at thwarting their efforts than they had been the night before. St John's Road and Lavender Hill in Clapham, where looting had taken place, were cordoned off for more than five hours after the would-be cleaners arrived, while forensic teams gathered evidence. But the crowds waited patiently, raising the brooms in the air, in one of the more inspiring images of the day.
In Croydon, south London, the shock and anger of the Reeves family – whose 19th-century House of Reeves furniture store was razed to the ground – had been replaced by acceptance. "There is no point being angry," said Graham Reeves, co-owner of the gutted business. "Who are you going to be angry at?
"We will pick up the pieces. My father, who is in his 80s, wanted to see if we could carry out our deliveries today. We will see if we can get the van through the police tape and load up to deliver to our customers from what's left. Otherwise, it is just devastation."
Next to the destroyed showroom, a worker at Barkers Pharmacy, which had switched its business to a nearby chemist shop after its premises were damaged, said: "We have to get on with things. We have a job to do." Residents were quick to point out that it was small, independent businesses rather than chain stores which had been disproportionately targeted.
There remained much anger and upset elsewhere. A 26-year-old man died yesterday from his injuries, the first fatality of the three days of disorder. He was found in a car with a gunshot wound to his head late in the night; his death is being investigated by the Met's Operation Trident unit.
In Ealing, west London, a 67-year-old man was critically ill in hospital last night after suffering life threatening injuries while attempting to extinguish a fire started by rioters in a wheelie bin.
The assembled masses in Clapham had originally been slow to apportion blame, but several were dismayed by how long it had taken police to arrive.
"I didn't see a police officer from eight until gone 11," said Phil Molyneaux, a 31-year-old doctor who watched events from his third-floor flat opposite the now torched party shop. "I called them a couple of times and said: 'There are kids down there making Molotov cocktails,' and they said they were 'aware of the situation.'" When the shop went up in flames he and his neighbours evacuated, and Mr Molyneaux slept on a friend's sofa. Yesterday he went back to "pack up, lock up and leave".
Talk of thousands of extra police on the streets last night reassured some, but there was also considerable nervousness about what to expect. "Maybe I'm the only mad, over-panicking one," said Mr Molyneaux, "but I can't sleep there. Not after I saw the speed at which those flats went up."
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