Today, kids and young men and women fought pitched battles with police on Mare Street, one of the busiest roads in the east London borough of Hackney. The violence and looting of shops started at around 5PM in the afternoon, and are continuing as we speak.
It all started at the northern end of Mare Street near Hackney Central station. A young black guy wearing a mustard body warmer and his friend were sat outside McDonald's when ten coppers jumped out of three riot vans and grabbed them. They wanted to carry out a Stop and Search. I didn't see what the two guys had done, but they were being pretty aggressive.
A 50-strong crowd of onlookers, reporters and photojournalists formed around them. The police let one guy go, and the crowd followed him to another part of the cemetery. There, we came across four teenage girls, a couple of whom were crying. Someone started shouting "Oh my god, they're beating up girls."
I'm not sure they were telling the truth, but suddenly there was a big, fat line of cops opposite a big, fat line of people who weren't cops. The tension increased, and the cops backed off, regrouping by a set of vans. A rock came flying over our heads and narrowly missed the police, smashing onto the van. A lot of people ran away screaming about a 'gunshot.'
At this time, there was a traffic backlog tailing back along Mare Street, mostly made up of police cars and riot vans. Everyone seemed to convene here, and promptly began to smash up the police vehicles. This continued for about 20 minutes, before the police rallied and chased the mob off the main road towards Tesco.
The police formed a wall, pushing people up Mare Street in bursts of baton charges. As the police pressure relented, people took the opportunity to start looting shops, smashing in the windows of not one, but two opticians. Thieves made off with rotating stacks of spectacles.
Eventually the police managed to split the crowd in two, forcing one group along Morning Lane towards Tesco and another group further south along Mare Street. The group near Tesco broke into the supermarket, a crew of kids working together in a loose fashion to make sure everyone there had a few bottles of water and coke to lob at police.
The other group on Mare Street continued to pelt the police with bottles. A photographer was smacked in the face and had his camera taken off him. He was distraught. A kid in a balaclava warned us not to take any more photos of our own, or he'd "smash our facking faces in."
Some kids broke into a bus, forced the passengers and the driver out. They tried to start it, some of them encouraging others to drive it into the police line, but they failed, and the police moved in with dogs.
We were pushed back to the Hackney Empire and the steps of the Old Town Hall. The rioters broke open a bottle bank and armed themselves. One of us, VBS' Hugo Donkin, was attacked, put into a headlock and dragged off into a side street. A guy with a big chunk of metal gave him five seconds to hand over either his phone or his camera, but he managed to escape into the crowd of people.
We were pushed back again, and some kids down a side street set fire to a Mazda. Others on Mare Street launched fireworks at police. The cops moved in heavily, but another bottle bank was found and emptied for ammo. Kids tore into a jewellers, a Texaco garage and the adjoining Spar supermarket. Luckily, kids who were trying to get the petrol pumps to light wimped out. The kids scattered, and are slowly congregating now on the Pembury Estate.
WORDS: HENRY LANGSTON & ALEX MILLER
PHOTOS: HENRY LANGSTON