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Urban warzone needs fixing to avoid impact on London Olympics

(Xinhua)

15:25, August 11, 2011

Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- One chooses to describe the current situation in Britain, recreational rioting, pure criminality or the revenge of a disenfranchised underclass while authorities know exactly how long they have to set things straight. There is less than one year to go till London hosts the 2012 Olympics.

Earlier this week, London became an urban warzone with horrific scenes of blazing cars, running street battles and looted businesses.

The British capital may now be quieter, but the unrest has spread across England to cities such as Manchester, Salford, Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham and Bristol.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has had enough. "This continued violence is simply not acceptable, and it will be stopped. We will not allow a culture of fear to exist on our streets," he said on Wednesday promising a tough, robust response by police.

There are no simple explanations for what sparked the mayhem. "Angry young people with nothing to do and little to lose are turning on their own communities. In one of the greatest cities in the world, society is ripping itself apart," Laurie Penny blogged from London.

British national Tim Nolan blames successive government ignorance for fuelling the flames of smoldering, disintegrating sections of society. "Pity the local residents, the defenseless, the unprotected upstanding citizens, the cops and firefighters who are risking their lives on progressively dwindling budgets, all of them hemmed in by a hideous, braying, greedy mob," he told Xinhua.

The riots were triggered after London police gunned down Mark Duggan, a young man in Tottenham. But arsonists who claim to be taking revenge have had little sympathy. Activist Mosa'ab Elshamy said: "Egyptians and Tunisians took revenge for Khaled Said and Mohammed Bouazizi by peacefully toppling their murdering regimes, not stealing DVD players."

Jay Howard from Leeds does not buy the spending cuts argument. "I have been unemployed and broke for three years now. I have never taken to the streets, smashed property or looted a shop. Unemployment, poverty and disenfranchisement are just lousy excuses for thuggish behavior," he wrote in an web forum.

There are those who point to a history of the London metropolitan police unfairly singling out youths from black and minority ethnic backgrounds in certain areas for stop-and-search operations, even on their way back home from school.

While some question what the parents of adolescent rioters are doing to control their kids, others point to social deprivation. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), social mobility in Britain is worse than in any other developed country.

Back in London, the streets were calmer on Tuesday night. This was thanks not only to bolstered police presence but also due to a "community fightback" led by the Sikhs of Southall and the Turks of Dalston patrolling the streets, cricket bats and sticks in hand.

"A total of 16,000 police just announced to be on the streets. After last night, I'd rather have 16,000 Turks," remarked London resident Phill Taylor.

Vacations have been cut short for politicians and police alike. Parliament were recalled on Thursday to discuss the riots and its repercussions, not in the least its impact on the upcoming London Olympics.

Many in the social media have questioned why London's ability to host a violence-free games has not been called into question. "If these riots had taken place in South Africa a year before the football world cup, there would have been calls to move it," said Jamie Kyagyal.

For now, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is not pressing the panic button. "Security at the Olympic Games is a top priority for the IOC. It is, however, directly handled by the local authorities, as they know best what is appropriate and proportionate," its media relations manager Andrew Mitchell said in a statement.

"We are confident they will do a good job in this domain," he added.

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