As of late Wednesday, however, much of the country appeared calm, with stores reopening in some hard-hit neighborhoods, albeit with a large police presence on the streets. But many people still spoke of a sense of fear after the most deadly night of the riots yet, with authorities in Birmingham calling for calm amid worries about rising racial tensions after a fatal incident.
Late Tuesday, a car carrying alleged looters ran over and killed three South Asian men who were out protecting their neighborhood. Birmingham police arrested a suspect; though they did not disclose his race, missives circulating on Twitter said the driver was black, ratcheting up local tensions.
Among the dead was a 21-year-old whose father, Tariq Jahan, gave him CPR on the scene only to watch him die. In an emotional appeal, Jahan begged for an end to the violence, saying the tragedy should become a turning point for peace and not a rallying cry for “revenge.”
“I can’t describe what it is like to lose your son,” he said. “I don’t know what is happening to England and why innocent people have to die.”
He later added, “Blacks, Asian, whites, we all live in the same community, why do we have to kill one another?” He asked that everyone honor his son by “not going out tonight.”
Addressing public anger
Almost since the riots began after the fatal police shooting of a black resident of north London last week, critics have called for a tougher response to the rash of disturbances that has sullied Britain’s image less than a year before London is set to host the 2012 Olympic Games.
Underscoring the public anger, a YouGov poll for the Sun newspaper published Wednesday showed 90 percent of those surveyed calling for the use of water cannons against rioters, 77 percent supporting the deployment of the army and 33 percent saying police should be permitted to fire live ammunition.
A majority — 57 percent — said Cameron had been managing the crisis poorly, an impression he apparently sought to dispel Wednesday. “There are pockets of our society that are not just broken but frankly sick,” Cameron said, pledging that “nothing is off the table” to halt the violence and catch looters. He said he would move to publish images of of rioters captured by surveillance cameras, without “any phony concerns about human rights getting in the way.”