Riot witness blames 'Jeremy Kyle world'

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The Independent Online

An eyewitness who saw dozens of yobs run amok in the centre of Gloucester last night described it as a "war zone".





The woman blamed the "Jeremy Kyle world" for the violence and said the rioters should be sent to Afghanistan to see how tough life could really be.



At the height of the trouble last night, around 60 thugs rampaged through the city centre, throwing rocks and bottles at the police and setting fire to bins and two cars.



They then moved on to the nearby Eastgate Street, Barton Street and Tredworth areas with three shops having their windows smashed.



Arsonists also set fire to the former art college, which has been the target of repeated anti-social behaviour in recent months.



Around 100 firefighters and 16 appliances tackled the blaze, which broke out at the boarded-up college in Brunswick Road, behind the city's main shopping street.



Gloucestershire Police said more than 200 officers, including support from the Avon and Somerset force, were on the streets last night to quell the disorder.



So far 10 arrests - all local men aged between 16 and 40 - have been made but police are promising more.



The eyewitness, who did not wish to give her name, spoke out after watching a gang of hoodlums attacking the bookmaker's shop she lives above.



She described in detail what happened in Barton Street after around 30 rioters targeted the branch of Coral.



"I woke up with the room moving and that shows how hard they were kicking the glass," she said.



"I looked down and they looked up but I didn't want to grab my phone straight away because they might have attacked.



"They were only interested in smashing up the glass. I didn't see their faces because they were all wearing balaclavas or scarves over their faces.



"It must have been happening for at least an hour. It was pretty horrendous, basically.



"It's just unbelievable. It was like a war zone down here. It was just horrendous. I have never seen anything like it.



"They had the riot police on both sides and there was probably about 30 people here and they just ram-raided the place.



"It's just this place they did. I've checked all the shops going into town because I have got a shop in town.



"That was the worrying thing. I was sat there thinking 'Should I go or are the police going to stop people going into town?'



"I am glad in a lot of ways they haven't targeted people's houses. That was the worrying thing.



"I thought I'd come down here this morning and find they'd smashed a load of windows; obviously not though.



"Fingers crossed it's not going to happen again."



The woman said she blamed a breakdown in society for the violence.



"It's just kids, they haven't got any roots in their life. Let's call it the 'Jeremy Kyle world'," she said.



"This is what these people are like. They haven't got any respect for anyone or anyone's property.



"I had someone tell me they had touched the One-Eyed Jack's pub opposite but they haven't touched anything."



The woman called for tough action to be taken against the rioters and said they should be sent to Afghanistan.



"It's all about money. We're all in the same boat, for God's sake," she said.



"I'm just a bit worried they are going to do this tonight again because this is a cancer that is spreading across the country.



"On the news they're now saying Facebook had a lot to do with it.



"All these young kids have gone out to the war in Afghanistan and we've got this in our own country.



"It's just horrendous. They should send them all to Boot Camp and send them all off to Afghanistan so they can see what it's really like to be in war.



"A couple of months in Afghanistan would sort them out."







Police said that, fortunately, no officers were injured in the disturbances, which were branded "copycat".

Deputy Chief Constable Mick Matthews said: "What we have seen taking place in Gloucester overnight have been copycat incidents which do not appear to have been co-ordinated in any way.



"While we had hoped this type of criminality would not take place here, we were well-prepared, as were our colleagues in partner agencies.



"Local people have, we believe, been the perpetrators, committing offences within their own communities.



"While the disorder here has not been on the same scale as elsewhere in the country, involving perhaps 60 people at most, it has undoubtedly been very disturbing and is causing concern for local people.



"I would like to reassure people that we and our partners have been working together to deal with this, and we have control of the situation.



"This type of behaviour is completely unacceptable and we are now identifying those responsible, arresting them and will be putting them through the criminal justice system."



Police also appealed for anyone with visual evidence of the disturbances, such as photographs and video/phone footage, to email it to callcentregloucestershire.police.uk.



Council leaders said contingency plans had been put in place before the violence and Gloucester was quickly returning to normal.



The clear-up operation had been completed before many residents had even woken up and the damage left behind was minimal.



Leaders from both Gloucester City Council and Gloucestershire County Council will be visiting affected areas today to reassure people and help allay fears.



In a joint statement, Paul James, leader of Gloucester City Council, and Mark Hawthorne, leader of Gloucestershire County Council, said: "Last night's events are extremely disappointing although nothing like the scale of the London riots.



"A small number of local people have turned on their own communities for no reason other than to copy sad events taking place elsewhere in the country.



"However, we are talking about a small minority of people whose actions have been condemned by the communities they live in.



"Last night we saw a rapid, co-ordinated response from our police and fire services which kept the damage and disorder to a minimum and that should be commended.



"Let's be clear - we will come down hard on these people. So far, 10 arrests have been made and the police actively pursuing several leads with a view to arresting many more people this morning and throughout the day.



"During the night and earlier this morning, the city council has worked hard to clean up the damage and, with the county council, this work will continue today.



"We will be meeting with community leaders to provide reassurance that there will be a show of strength on the streets of Gloucester once again tonight and for as long as it is needed."



The former college building was due for demolition anyway and these plans could be brought forward now, the council said.



The fire service said crews worked for two hours to bring the blaze under control.



Chief Fire Officer Jon Hall said: "Our crews worked superbly in stressful conditions and were well-supported by police colleagues helping maintain security around our operations.



"We have been working closely with the police undertaking detailed pre-planning and this has certainly paid dividends and helped us deal with everything that was presented to us with no damage to appliances or equipment and, most importantly, no injury to staff.



"I want to reassure the community that we will continue to work closely with the police over coming days and continue to ensure that emergency services work together to support our communities and keep people safe."







Gloucester Tory MP Richard Graham condemned those responsible for the "mindless" damage.

"Last night was bad news for our city," he said.



"Hooliganism on the streets - a fire in the old arts college, some bins burnt on Barton Street and three or four shop windows badly damaged.



"More worrying is the invisible damage - negative headlines in national papers and the impact of that on investors looking at putting millions of pounds into regeneration projects and new jobs.



"And the fear of people living here that next time it could be their windows at home.



"Let's be clear - the people who did these things live with us.



"They're not all youngsters - there was a 40-year-old among the 10 arrested so far.



"It is incredibly disappointing to see people from our own community responsible for mindless damage to our and their city.



"So my message to anyone involved in last night's troubles in Gloucester is 'Do not damage our city and your own future any further - stop now'.



"There are some positives. I'm relieved that no-one was hurt, no homes damaged and no stores looted.



"The only building damaged was the old arts college, empty and scheduled for demolition.



"The clean-up early this morning was very quick. And the police and fire teams did a good job in difficult circumstances.



"Early this morning I had further meetings with both to ensure that adequate resources are in place for tonight.



"And the Chief Constable, the city council leader and I will be walking about the city this morning to talk to people, to reassure them and to spread the message that it's business as usual."



Mr Graham made an impassioned plea to local people.



"Gloucester is a safe place. We don't expect this violence and we absolutely don't need it," he said.



"Your city needs your help to spread the word that it's not cool, that there are plenty of opportunities for all - the Barton Jobs Fair that I organised only recently had over 2,000 jobs and apprenticeships available - and that last night was a major step back for the regeneration of Gloucester.



"So let's be proud of our city and not let a small handful of vandals destroy life in Gloucester."

PA