London wilts as riots spread

Mob rule reigns: Cameron cuts short vacation, vows to restore order

At the same time, the police said they had launched a murder inquiry after a 26-year-old man, who was not identified by name, was shot and killed in a car in Croydon, south of London, late Monday as rioters torched and looted buildings — the first known fatality since the unrest began in another part of the city on Saturday.

Cameron spoke after cutting short a vacation in Tuscany to return home as violence convulsed at least eight new districts in the metropolitan area late Monday and early Tuesday and broke out for the first time in other locations including Britain’s second-largest city, Birmingham.

Coming after a cascade of crises, the measures announced by Cameron seemed to represent a bid to restore some appearance of official authority after nights of chaos and near-anarchy, with rioters taunting or outmaneuvering the police, raiding stores and torching buildings.

Seeking to reinforce the message — and to counter public rage at what many perceive as an indecisive official response to the violence — Cameron toured Croydon, one of the worst-hit areas, and was shown on television accompanied by police officers outside burned-out buildings.

Rubber bullets

The BBC and other British news organisations reported Tuesday that the police may be permitted to use rubber bullets for the first time as part of the government’s strengthened response to any resumption of the mayhem.

Against Blackberry

David Lammy, Britain’s intellectual property minister, also called for a suspension of Blackberry’s encrypted instant message service. Many rioters, exploiting that service, had been able to organise mobs and outrun the police, who were ill-equipped to monitor it. “It is unfortunate, but for the very short term, London can’t have a night like the last,” Lammy said in a Twitter post.

Londoners have been stunned not only by the extent of the violence and the speed with which it spread, but also by the spectacle of hooded and masked youths rampaging with seeming impunity despite hundreds of arrests that have filled police cells to overflowing. Many have asked how areas of the city could have been transformed so rapidly from bustling shopping areas one day to quasi war-zones the next.

Cleaning up

In a cautious response, some citizens took to cleaning up the debris on Tuesday, cheering police patrol vehicles passing by to demonstrate their rejection of the looters. But others remained angry. When London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, visited stricken Clapham in south London on Tuesday after interrupting a vacation, people harangued him on the street, apparently unimpressed by his assurances that rioters would “face punishment they will bitterly regret.”

Standing outside his office and residence at 10 Downing Street, Cameron said lawmakers would be called back from their summer recess for one day on Thursday to enable Parliament to assess the situation. All police leave had been cancelled, he said.

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