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Riot, fires break out in north London after protest

A double decker bus burns Saturday as riot police try to contain a large group of people on a main road in Tottenham, north London.Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Police were in a tense standoff with rampaging rioters who burned three patrol cars, set a bus and shops ablaze and looted stores in the gritty north London neighborhood of Tottenham, British media reported early Sunday.

The incidents began Saturday night after an initially peaceful protest over the Thursday fatal shooting of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old father of four who was killed after an apparent exchange of fire with police.

The protesting crowd swelled to more than 300 outside a police station on High Road and violence erupted, the BBC said. A member of Parliament appealed for calm, but officers on horseback and others in riot gear clashed with hundreds of ­rioters armed with makeshift missiles.

No officers were inside two patrol cars first set upon by the crowd, officials said.

Later, police told NBC News that eight injured officers were hospitalized.

At least one officer had head injuries, BBC reported.

Nine people were taken to the hospital, a London Ambulance Service spokeswoman told the BBC.

A post office, supermarket, job center and carpet store were among the fire losses, according to media reports. A double-decker bus was set ablaze early in the rioting.

Widespread looting was also reported Sunday morning in the nearby Wood Green district of north London.

Scotland Yard reported pockets of trouble continued 10 hours after the rioting began, NBC News said.

Firefighters initially could not reach a blazing Tottenham shop blocked by the disorder. A woman who lives above the shop told British TV she was trapped with her baby by the blaze and mayhem. Several buildings were later seen on fire and police tried to clear paths for firefighters.

Stores in the area were looted and people were seen pushing carts full of stolen goods, the Telegraph of London reported. Some of the rioters were said to look as young as 7 to 10 years old. They were fleeing with looted TVs and stereos, the Guardian said.

Hundreds of residents gathered to watch the unrest and there several were reports of attacks on bystanders, the Guardian said. Rioters were seen beating up a man attempting to film the scene.

Windows were smashed at a Barclays Bank and pictures on Twitter appeared to show the building being looted, the Daily Mail reported.

Youths stormed a McDonald’s and cooked their own burgers and fries, according to some accounts.

On the north side of Tottenham High Road one rioter, who told the United Kingdom's Channel 4 News his name was "Jamal," said, "These are our ends, we're here to tell the police they can't abuse us, harass us. We won't put up with it, this is just the beginning, this is war, and this is what you get — fire."

"Jamal" was one of a group of young men smashing up bricks a few yards away from a line of some 150 riot squad officers, Channel 4 News said.

Hails of bottles and bricks were intermittently thrown at police from side streets as reinforcements arrived, the Guardian said. Four firework rockets were shot at a line of police horses, prompting a charge and a nearby crowd to disperse in panic.

The BBC reported that its TV news crew and satellite truck also came under attack from youths throwing missiles after youths began attacking a third patrol car. Sky News also said it was forced to withdraw camera crews from the area as the situation became increasingly volatile early Sunday.

Earlier Saturday, around 120 people marched from the Broadwater Farm area to the police station, the Telegraph said.

Vanessa Robinson told the BBC said she had joined the original protest outside the police station and it had begun peacefully.

She said the situation turned into "absolute chaos."

Maria Robinson, who lives in Tottenham, described the situation as "absolutely manic".

She said people were throwing bottles, making bottle bombs, setting fires and breaking into shops.

Another resident, David Akinsanya, 46, said several shop windows had been smashed.

"It's really bad," he said. "There are two police cars on fire. I'm feeling unsafe."

He added: "There was a police line of about 15 riot police sort of in front of the police station on the north side and then there were loads of uniformed officers on the south side of the police station.

"They weren't making any effort to go into the crowd. Every now and again they would rush the crowd and the crowd would run.

"But there seems to be a lot of anger in Tottenham tonight... as I left they were starting to attack the police station.

One person at the scene, who gave his name to the BBC as Tim, said: "It's an absolute war zone. I walked up there. I saw about five youths, all faces covered up. They set a wheelie bin on fire and threw it into the riot police."

Duggan had been shot in an exchange of fire after the police's Trident operational command unit, which deals with gun crime in the black community, stopped the minicab he was traveling in, the Guardian said. A police officer was said to have escaped injury in the shoot out when a bullet lodged in his radio.

Parliament member David Lammy said on his website: "We already have one grieving family in our community and further violence will not heal that pain," Sky News reported. "True justice can only follow a thorough investigation of the facts.

"The Tottenham community and Mark Duggan's family and friends need to understand what happened on Thursday evening when Mark lost his life. To understand those facts, we must have calm."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating the shooting of Duggan, the BBC reported.

A spokesman for London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "Violence and destruction of property will do nothing to facilitate [the IPCC] investigation and we urge those involved to respect the rule of law."

Miles from the tourist hotspots of central London, Tottenham is one of the most deprived areas in all of England, with nearly half of all children living in poverty, according to campaigners. The area is very diverse and home to one of the capital's biggest black populations.

The area also has a history of racial tension and anti-police feeling.

In 1985 Tottenham was the scene of a deadly riot after a local woman suffered heart failure when her home was raided by the police. The Tottenham riots were among the most violent in the country's history with police constable Keith Blakelock killed by attackers wielding knives and machetes as he tried to protect firefighters and nearly 60 others hospitalized.