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Hoe de rellen begonnen

08 augustus 2011, 3:22pm

Onze collega Alex Miller van VICE UK was er bij toen de rellen in Tottenham begonnen. Hieronder kun je lezen hoe dat ging.

I arrived on the scene at 11pm, about two and half hours after the first missile was thrown in anger. I followed some police horses to Tottenham High Road, where a cordon blocked the route through. From where I was standing, I could see a number of buildings on fire. A double-decker bus also burned. I got talking to a local guy, who led me through the cordon and down a side street, past a branch of William Hill. That was on fire, too.

We continued through some estates and eventually managed to get onto Tottenham High Road. A large group of rioters had gathered around the flaming bus, while others had started looting some shops. Young men were in Iceland, a jewellers and a Post Office. The people in the Post Office were throwing packets of fags around like confetti. Another betting shop then came under attack. Its safe was smashed open and swiftly emptied.

After about half an hour the crowd became restless, some photographers were attacked and bystanders mugged before the police charged in and pushed the rioters back. The mob responded by erecting barricades and setting fire to a police station. An hour-long stand-off ensued, and at this point it would have been suicide for me to have been swanning around with my camera out. Every so often during the stand-off, rioters, the bravest I’ve ever seen, would charge at the police lines armed with nothing but their fists as a hail of bottles, bricks and fireworks looped overhead.

As mounted police slowly managed to force rioters back up the street, an Aldi and an adjacent building site were set on fire. At this point the rioters became even more brazen, and they would no longer flee when the police charged. So the cops changed tactics, calling on a helicopter to hover close to the ground, scattering debris and flaming embers into rioters.

Rioters looted a pub called The Pride of Tottenham, using the pint glasses and booze bottles as missiles. Then they set fire to a Carpetright, the blaze spreading to the flats above. A grim rumour spread that a trapped person had been banging on the windows pleading for help. A job centre and some nearby council offices were the next properties to be looted, before the crowd lifted pallets of fruit and veg from a local supermarket and started launching them at police. The police retaliated with their attack dogs. As they charged forwards, I got stuck behind police lines and I made my way home as police began to regain control of the area.

On Sunday morning, Tottenham High Road resembled a war zone, up to 20 stores and homes had been ransacked and set on fire. The road was strewn with debris and the burnt husks of vehicles as locals looked on in amazement and despair. What happened in Tottenham this weekend made last year’s student riots look like a postgraduate theology seminar. It’ll be interesting (and probably terrifying) to see what happens next.

TEKST, FOTO'S EN FILM: ALEX MILLER
IPHONE VIDEO: OMSTANDERS