British police on Monday promised a "momentous operation" to arrest rioters after a weekend of vandalism and looting that erupted in a disadvantaged London neighbourhood just kilometres from the site of next year's Olympic Games.
Groups of masked and hooded young people looted shops, attacked police officers and set fire to vehicles in violence that has raised questions about security ahead of the 2012 Olympics and revealed pent-up anger against the city's police. Over 160 people were arrested.
Around 35 police officers were injured, including three hit by a car while trying to make arrests in northeast London. Police commander Christine Jones said officers were "shocked at the outrageous level of violence directed against them."
After the riots came the looting. Across London windows were smashed, and shops emptied. On Monday experts said social exclusion and the breakdown of law and order could have spurred looters to disregard social norms.
"Many of the people involved are likely to have been from low-income, high-unemployment estates, and many, if not most, do not have much of a legitimate future," said criminologist and youth culture expert Professor John Pitts.
Unlike most people, some of those looting had no stake in conformity, he said. "Those things that normally constrain people are not there. Much of this was opportunism but in the middle of it there is a social question to be asked about young people with nothing to lose."
[T]elevision reporter: Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?
The TV reporter from Britain's ITV had no response. So the young man pressed his advantage. "Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you."