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Britain Ramps Up Security Efforts To Stop Rioting

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After more rioting overnight, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday that it was time to fight back, vowing that he wouldn’t allow “a culture of fear” take over the country’s streets.

“Whatever resources the police need, they will get; whatever tactics police feel they need to employ, they will have legal backing to do so. We will do whatever is necessary to restore law and order on to our streets,” he said in a statement outside his Downing Street office Wednesday.

Parliament will hold an emergency debate Thursday on the wave of riots — the worst such violence to hit the country since the 1980s. It’s a debate that has already begun in pubs and on street corners across the United Kingdom.

While Londoners saw relief Tuesday night, the violence continued outside the capital, especially in Manchester and Birmingham. The prime minister said Wednesday that police are using images captured on closed-circuit TV to make arrests.

“Picture by picture, these criminals are being identified, arrested, and we will not let any phony concerns about human rights get in the way of the publication of these pictures and arrest of these individuals,” Cameron said.

Targeted Attack?

In the central city of Birmingham, a car hit and killed three men — all Muslims — during the unrest. Police say the men, aged 20 to 31, were deliberately targeted. Tensions there are running high. West Midlands Chief Constable Chris Sims appealed for calm.

“My concerns now will be that that single incident doesn’t lead to a much wider and more general level of distrust and, even worse, violence between different communities,” he said.

The victims’ families are all of South Asian descent. They had been patrolling their neighborhood in a makeshift attempt to protect it from looters when a car came at them. The police say a man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering the three men, including 21-year-old Haroon Jahan.

Tariq Jahan, Haroon’s father, says he tried to save the young men hit by the truck before he knew their identities.

“I heard the thud and ran around, and I seen three people on the ground. My instinct was to help the three people, I didn’t know who they were, who’d been injured,” he says. “I helped the first man, and somebody from behind told me that my son was lying behind me. So I started doing CPR on my own son. My face was covered in blood, my hands were covered in blood. Why? Why?”

Searching For Answers

Many Britons are asking that question, among others, as they begin to debate what steps are needed to help repair their communities.

The north London borough of Hackney was hit hard by the rioting and looting. Stores were trashed, cars were burned and the community deeply shaken. Hackney resident Andy Wager rejects the idea that alienation and wealth disparities played a role in the violence. Many of the rioters were teenagers and he believes the fault lies with parents letting their kids descend into lawlessness.

“I’m sorry, but the children need to have discipline, they need structure in their lives,” he says. “I know I’m sounding like an old git here, but they need it to grow up properly, they need it to have respect for other people and other people’s property and currently they don’t have that.”

But others worry that that most British politicians don’t seem to understand what might really be going on in their communities. Politicians have denounced “mindless criminality” and “thuggery,” but have largely avoided discussing the underlying issues that might have contributed to the unrest.

Mike Hardy with the Institute of Community Cohesion, a British think tank, says even if only a few of the rioters were motivated by social deprivation, it would still be worth discussing.

“If it were only 10 percent and 90 percent were down to mindless thugs and greedy criminals, it would still be worth investing in community-based strategies, because the 10 percent are an important part of the community,” he says.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


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