(Follow tweets from the ground on the riots, looting and cleanup efforts here.)
UPDATE, Wednesday, 8:15 a.m.
It was a relatively quiet night in London following Prime Minister David Cameron’s orders to put the city on lockdown and deploy some 16,000 police.
But the riots that exploded in northern London over the weekend have now spread to other cities, including Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Nottingham.
Scotland Yard has now authorized the use of plastic bullets against rioters. Cameron has said that water cannons are ready if needed.
On Amazon U.K., baseball bats and riot gear are currently listed on the best-seller list.
The leader of Britain’s far-right group, the English Defence League, said Tuesday that some 1,000 of its members plan to take to the streets to stop the rioters. “We’re going to stop the riots—police obviously can’t handle it,” the group’s leader Stephen Lennon told the AP.
The rioting has now become deadly, with a 26-year-old killed in an attack in his vehicle in Croydon, south London Tuesday.
Three men were also killed in Birmingham in a hit-and-run. The men had just come from praying at the local mosque and were out on the streets trying to defend neighborhood shops from looters.
A 32-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the hit-and-run deaths.
A man who was robbed in the London riots as he sat bleeding and in need of help has been identified as Ashraf Haziq, an overseas student from Malaysia. The robbery was caught on video tape (watch the tape here), and inspired many Londoners to go looking for the robber. The robber has not yet been identified.
A total of 768 arrests have now been made in connection with the riots, Scotland Yard said Wednesday.
ORIGINAL POST, Tuesday, 9:08 a.m.
The Post’s Tony Faiola reports from London that “in the worst bout of urban violence to hit Britain in more than two decades, parts of London morphed into lawless no man’s lands .... Gangs of youths roamed one south London neighborhood while carrying molotov cocktails.”
Cameron vows to stop riots
As the riots worsened, Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his vacation to Italy to chair an emergency cabinet meeting in London on how to handle the growing crisis. Cameron vowed to “do everything necessary” to stop the riots.
Overwhelmed Metropolitan police called in reinforcements from police forces outside London. Police have arrested some 250 people.
Riots began Saturday night in Tottenham, following the fatal shooting Thursday of a black resident by police investigating gun crimes. The riots have since spiraled out of control as many disenfranchised youths began rioting and looting.
Many blamed police brutality for worsening riots, as in the cartoon above by Brazilian political cartoonist Carlos Latuff.
Spreading information through social
Both rioters and uninvolved citizens turned to BlackBerry Messenger, a private messaging system, to share information about the violence.
But some say the social networking site also exaggerated the scale of the riots, with fake pictures being shared of Big Ben burning, or the photo at left, which was shared as a burning London building but was actually a fire in China. Journalism student Matt Burgess shares instances in which people tweeted about riots in places where there weren’t any, and the rumors spread like wildfire.
Burgess also writes that traditional media outlets such as BBC and SkyNews have struggled to keep up with the flow of information, so much so that people began using the hashtag #mediablackout. Many journalists and photographers were attacked in the riots.
Efforts to clean up, catch looters
But as the riots worsened, the tide of public opinion began to turn against the rioters:
Many Londoners also used Twitter to mobilize into action and clean up their city. The hashtag #RiotCleanUp, Twitter profiles like @riotcleanup and the Web site Riot Cleanup are all being used to direct people on how and where to help.
Clean up teams soon started calling themselves the Wombles, characters from a 1970s children’s TV program who cleaned up the rubbish from Wimbledon Common. Many shared this video as they went out to neighborhoods to help with the cleanup.
An initiative to catch the looters also began on social networks, with profiles like @CatchaLooter. Some people shared funny videos, such as Kyle Glanville, who tweeted “shock as even the local wildlife become involved in the looting #londonriots #prayforlondon”:
While others were angered by videos like this one, in which a man is shown being robbed after he is attacked:
By Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police used armored trucks and vans to disburse rioters throughout the city:
And Londoners started to help police, even pouring tea and coffee for them throughout the night, as reports on continued to flow in on Twitter:
Photos of the riots and clean up