UPDATE 3-Violence escalates in British capital
Mon Aug 8, 2011 3:17pm EDT
* Third night of clashes in London
* Violence began after police killed man during arrest
* Police face questions on preparedness before Olympic Games (Adds detail, quotes, background)
By Stefano Ambrogi and Matt Falloon
LONDON, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Riots spread to new areas of London on Monday in a third night of violence as hooded youths torched cars and buildings, hurled missiles at police and looted shops, in the worst unrest in the British capital for decades.
Police were out in force, but struggled to stop disturbances spreading to Hackney in east London, close to the site of next year's Olympics games, and Peckham and Lewisham in south London.
Flames leaped into the air from a building in Peckham and cars were set on fire in several areas of London as gangs of youths roamed the streets.
The disturbances started late on Saturday in London's northern Tottenham district when a peaceful protest over the police's shooting of a suspect turned violent, leaving parts of the high street charred and its shops looted.
Home Secretary Theresa May, who cut short her holiday to take charge of the government response to the riots, said arrests had climbed to 215 and 27 people had been charged.
"The violence we've seen, the looting we've seen, the thuggery we've seen, this is sheer criminality ... These people will be brought to justice. They will be made to face the consequences of their actions," she said.
The mayhem has so far been centred mainly in multi-ethnic, poorer parts of London, only a few miles from the Olympic park that will welcome millions of visitors in less than a year.
A Reuters witness described chaotic scenes in Hackney in which at least one vehicle had been set alight, as well as many rubbish bins.
Youths threw what appeared to be fireworks at the police, while officers in formation sporadically charged the youths to try and disperse the crowd.
At the confrontation in Hackney continued, violence flared in the south London areas of Lewisham and Peckham, with many using the micro-blogging website Twitter to post links to pictures of youths smashing shop windows.LOCKDOWN
Some Twitter users said their area was in "lockdown" as police tried to reclaim the streets, while others said they were rushing home to safeguard their property.
Police said a double decker bus had been set alight in Peckham. In Hackney, youths, some in hooded tops, broke shop windows, including that of a Ladbrokes betting shop.
The BBC said the Hackney clashes broke out after police stopped and searched a man.
"We had boarded the whole place up, but they broke down the door and smashed up the place. They threw a bottle at me and it hit my leg," said the owner of a petrol station in Hackney, blood pouring from this leg.
British government officials branded rioters who fought police, looted shops and set fire to buildings as opportunistic criminals and said the violence, the worst in London for years, would not affect preparations for next summer's Olympic Games.
Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Kavanagh said the force was putting more officers on the streets in Hackney and other areas on Monday night.
"Let me make it clear that people who are using current events as an excuse or cover to break the law, steal, attack police officers and cause fear to Londoners will not be tolerated by the vast majority of Londoners and us," he said.
"Our investigation, which is massive in scope, is continuing," he said in statement.BARRICADES
A small group of people said they had barricaded themselves inside the 110-year-old Hackney Empire theatre to escape the violence.
"We are stuck inside," said one person, who did not give her name, in a telephone conversation with Reuters.
"We don't want to be near the windows. They seem to be targeting shops at the moment. It's very scary."
"We are in the back of the building, staying away from the front. We have barricaded the doors and put chains on the doors."
Youths appeared to have used a free message service on Blackberry mobile phones to coordinate attacks on shops and police.
Research In Motion , the Canadian manufacturer of Blackberry smartphones, said it would work with British authorities, but gave no details on what information, if any, it would give the police.
"We feel for those impacted by this weekend's riots in London. We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can," RIM spokesman Patrick Spence said in a statement.
Some have branded the disturbances as a cry for help from impoverished areas reeling from the government's harsh austerity cuts to tackle a big budget deficit, with youth services and other facilities cut back sharply.
"Tottenham is a deprived area. Unemployment is very, very high ... they are frustrated," said Uzodinma Wigwe, 49, who was made redundant from his job as a cleaner recently.
Officials said there was no excuse.
"It was needless, opportunistic theft and violence, nothing more, nothing less. It is completely unacceptable," said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. (Additional reporting by Adrian Croft, Mohammed Abbas and Avril Ormsby; Editing by Myra MacDonald)http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/ ... H020110808