Brixton violence after rally over police killing

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The Independent Online

Disorder erupted on Friday night on the streets of Brixton, south London, after a demonstration in the wake of the fatal shooting by armed police of a man with an imitation gun.

Tensions had been running high in the area since Derek Bennett, a 29-year-old psychiatric patient, was shot dead by police after pointing a gun-shaped cigarette lighter at a bystander on Monday.

Last night, shop windows were smashed and stores were looted by rioters who overturned cars and then turned on police. A policewoman's arm was broken in the scuffles, two other officers were injured and at least one man was arrested.

Protesters gathered peacefully outside Brixton police station during the afternoon. A minute's silence was held at the scene of the shooting on the Angel Estate. Later, youths the police claimed were "opportunists" acting on the back of strong feelings about the shooting began the disturbance.

Officers formed a blockade down Brixton high street and the underground station was shut. A police spokesman described the youths as "playing hell". He said: "They have been moving around the centre of Brixton... and making noise."

Deputy assistant commissioner Andy Trotter said: "The disorder and looting we have seen tonight is opportunistic and certainly not representative of the local community. What started as a peaceful and law-abiding event was exploited by a relatively small group of youths intent on causing trouble and crime. What we have seen is purely and simply criminal behaviour and has nothing to do with lawful protest."

It was thought that the increased police presence in the area since the shooting could have led to further unease which triggered the disturbances. An investigating team from Northumbria police announced yesterday that its members would be visiting the scene to question witnesses.

Mr Bennett was shot three times in the back and once in the back of his left shoulder moments after the man he had taken hostage wriggled free. The officer who fired the shots has been taken off firearms duties but is still at work.