Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old black man, was shot dead on Thursday, August 4, by police officers in Tottenham, a largely black and impoverished suburb of northeast London. Duggan was a member of the Star Gang, which has a reputation for carrying guns and dealing in hard drugs, and his apprehension was preplanned. It was originally claimed he had fired first, although now it seems both shots were fired by the police.
His death was followed by an incandescent protest outside the Tottenham police station on the subsequent Saturday, and that night decades-old tensions between blacks and the police (called “the Feds” by many blacks) burst literally into flames—with large-scale rioting, looting, and arson breaking out in Tottenham, Hackney, and Dalston, and south of the river in Brixton. (All of these areas are heavily black.) The rioting awoke awful memories of 1985, when white policeman Keith Blakelock was murdered by a black mob hereabouts.
Over Sunday and Monday, rioting and looting spread to other parts of London and to Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, and elsewhere. Monday, August 8, was the busiest night in the London Fire Brigade’s 146-year history—the Blitz included.
From having been essentially a black riot with ostensibly political causes, as experienced fairly frequently before, the “protests” became a more diffuse affair, as thieves of all races availed...