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UK police set to deploy water cannon

(Shanghai Daily)

08:42, August 11, 2011

Shanghai (Shanghai Daily)--Britain will not let a "culture of fear" take over its streets, Prime Minister David Cameron insisted yesterday, saying police have drawn up contingency plans to use water cannon if necessary to remove rioters from the streets.

Thousands of extra police officers on the streets kept a nervous London quiet after three nights of rioting, but looting flared in Manchester and Birmingham, where a murder probe was opened after three men were killed in a hit-and-run reportedly as they took to the streets to deter potential rioters.

"We will do whatever is necessary to restore law and order onto our streets," Cameron said in a somber televised statement. "Nothing is off the table" - including water cannon, used in Northern Ireland but never deployed in mainland Britain.

Cameron has recalled Parliament from its summer recess for an emergency debate on the riots today.

An eerie calm prevailed in the capital yesterday, where hundreds of shops had shut early Tuesday night as a precaution, but unrest spread across England on a fourth night of violence by brazen crowds of young people.

Police across the country have made almost 1,200 arrests - including 800 in London - since the violence broke out in the capital last Saturday.

Armored vehicles and convoys of police vans backed up some 16,000 officers on duty on Tuesday - almost triple the number who were out on Monday night. There were no reports of major trouble in London on Tuesday night, although there were scores of arrests.

"What happened in London last night was - when community leaders and the police came together - there were significant arrests," said police deputy assistant chief constable Stephen Kavanagh. "It was that joint action that made the difference."

London courts worked through the night to process all those charged. Defendants appearing yesterday included a 31-year-old primary school worker who admitted looting an electronics store, and a 15-year-old boy originally from Ukraine accused of throwing stones at police.

The violence has revived debate about the Conservative-led government's austerity measures, which will slash 80 billion pounds (US$130 billion) from public spending by 2015 to reduce the country's budget deficit.

Cameron's government has slashed police budgets. A report last month said the cuts will mean 16,000 fewer police officers by 2015.

London mayor Boris Johnson - like Cameron, a Conservative - broke with the government to say such cuts are wrong.

"That case was always pretty frail and it has been substantially weakened," he told BBC radio.

Outside the capital, more looting was reported on Tuesday night but not on the scale of Monday's violence in London.

Some 250 people were arrested after two days of violence in Birmingham, and police launched a murder investigation into the deaths of three men hit by a car. Residents said the dead men, aged 20 to 31, were members of Birmingham's Asian community who had been patrolling their neighborhood.

"They lost their lives for other people, doing the job of the police," said witness Mohammed Shakiel, 34. "They weren't standing outside a mosque, a temple, a synagogue or a church - they were standing outside shops where everybody goes. They were protecting the community."

Chris Sims, chief constable of West Midlands Police, said a man had been arrested on suspicion of murder. "The information we have supports the idea that the car was deliberately driven," he said.

In the northwestern city of Manchester, hundreds of youths rampaged through the city center, hurling bottles and stones at police and vandalizing stores. A women's clothing store was set ablaze, along with a disused library in nearby Salford.

Manchester assistant chief constable Garry Shewan said it was simple lawlessness. "We want to make it absolutely clear - they have nothing to protest against," he said.

Soccer authorities were yesterday talking with police to see whether this weekend's season-opening matches of the Premier League could still go ahead in London.

England's riots began last Saturday when an initially peaceful protest over a police shooting in London's Tottenham neighborhood turned violent.

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