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Sparked of by the death of a London youth, Mark Duggan, major riots broke out in London and many other cities of Britain in August 2011. The riots raged from August 4 – 20 and caused extensive damage to life and property. Five people were reported dead, over 200 injured and about a hundred homes destroyed in various instances of loot and arson. The British police arrested over 2,987 people during the period. Losses amounting to over £200 million were reported including about over £100 million from London. The riots are believed to have broken out following a growing resentment due to unemployment, economic crisis, and racial discrimination.

What caused the Britain Riots of 2011?

A number of reasons including high levels of unemployment and a worsening economic crisis have been sited as the reasons for the outbreak of the Britain Riots of 2011. A deepening lack of racial cohesion and discrimination against racial minorities erupted with the death of Mark Duggan, a young black Londoner, killed in an incidence of police shooting.

One of the major factors cited was the cuts in government spends towards public welfare. The British government, in the grip of a global economic crisis had drastically cut public spends. Another major contributor was a growing suspicion and animosity towards the police.

What Sparked it Off?

On August 4, 2011, two days before the riots broke out, Mark Duggan, a twenty-nine year old was shot by the London police in the attempt to arrest him. It was initially alleged that Duggan had shot at the police and in retaliation the police had opened fire, killing the young man. It later came to light that Duggan was unarmed as professed by his parents. On Saturday, August 6, 2011, the youth of London assembled to protest the killing. What was initially a peaceful street march in Tottenham, North London, soon turned riotous and violent with protesters setting buildings and vehicles ablaze.

The Riots

Between August 6 and August 20, 2011 the riots spread from Tottenham to many London boroughs. Eventually a number of cities in Britain also reported incidences of rioting, looting, and arson.

Late at night on August 6, 2011, rioting started around Tottenham. The post office was burnt and many shops were looted. While London police tried to curb the violence many were injured and a number of people were arrested. The next day riots spread to Enfield, Wood Green, Brixton, and other areas including Islington, Streatham, and Denmark Hill.

Croydon, Ealing, Kingston, Balham, Sutton, Notting Hill, and several other London neighborhoods broke out into riots on August 8, 2011. On the same day a number of cities in Britain reported mob violence and copycat riots. The major cities included Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, Oxford, and Brighton. Riots raged in several other cities including Derby, Coventry, Gloucester, Watford, Leicester, Cambridge, Somerset, and Liverpool on August 9 and 10, 2011. Through the next ten days, till August 20, 2011, isolated incidents of rioting and violence were reported in many parts of Britain. According to The Guardian over 2,987 people were arrested across Britain.


Five people were reported killed lost in the Britain Riots of 2011. Trevor Ellis (26), Richard Bowes (68), Abdul Musavir (31), Shahzad Ali (30), and Haroon Jahan (21) lost their lives in the violence. Ellis was in Croydon, South London, with his friends and died in a shooting. Bowes died due to mob violence in Ealing and the others died protecting Winson Green from the rioters.

In the course of the riots that raged through early August over sixteen people were injured and about 186 policemen sustained injuries. These numbers include the ten firefighters of the London Fire Brigade who tried to douse over a hundreds grave instances of fire kindled by the mob. The London Fire Brigade also reported damages to eight fire engines and two fire cars. Four London buses were damaged in the violent incidents.

The riots in London centered on Tottenham and caused the business establishments of the neighborhood many million pounds. Hundreds of homes and about 48,000 establishments reported damages and losses. The Sony DADC warehouse in Enfield was set ablaze by the rioters and sustained extensive damages. The Association of British Insurers estimate insurance payouts to amount to over £200 million of which 50% claims were likely to come from London. As per the Riots (Damages) Act 1886 the British Police would be required to pay any insurance claims rising out of damages in a riot. This could mean that the British taxpayers would have to pay the damages. The worst damage, perhaps, was the damage of London’s image with the city being chosen to host 2012 Olympic Games. It has been confirmed that since August the city has tightened security and the games shall be held as scheduled.

Blackberry Messenger

Blackberry Messenger, a text messaging service available to Blackberry users, was used extensively by the rioters to coordinate during the Britain Riots of 2011. Research in Motion (RIM) announced its intentions of assisting the British police and sharing chat logs and location information of the Blackberry users. The day after the announcement was made Blackberry's official website was hacked by the rioters. The site carried a message from the hackers warning RIM not to share the users’ personal information with the police. The group, identified as TeaMpoisoN was believed to have been behind the hacking episode. Britain Police struggled to keep up with the rioters who used a number of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook in addition to the smartphone messenger.


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