Vigilantespromise to protect families and firms
Published 11/08/2011 | 05:00
Hundreds of so-called "vigilantes" have vowed to defy police orders and mobilise their own armies to protect their families and businesses from looting mobs.
Over the past few nights, residents across London and in Birmingham have taken to the streets with baseball bats, swords, and hockey sticks to defend their property after police lost control of the riots.
An army of up to 1,500 Sikhs, some in their 80s, patrolled west London neighbourhoods around temples in Southall and Hounslow on Tuesday night, successfully chasing rioters away, a community spokesman said.
Ashish Joshi, chairman of the Sikh Media Monitoring Group, said the patrols would continue because the police appeared to be "failing to do their job".
"The Sikhs of west London are not going to go out there with their brooms after the rioting," he said. "They will be there with hockey sticks before it happens.
"The police will obviously look down on these so-called 'vigilante' patrols because they are being shamed up. They are not doing their jobs. The Sikhs are just there to protect what they worked for."
The group reported that patrols of young Sikhs in Hounslow, west London, on Tuesday night drove away a mob of youths who were allegedly attempting to set fire to bins on an industrial estate.
Mr Joshi said: "One or two got stopped by the police because they were carrying cricket bats and swords. But they did the job."
In Dalston, east London, Turkish shopkeepers armed with bats and broken pool cues saw off a gang of masked men. Kingsland High Street was lined with Turkish and Kurdish men on Tuesday night, some carrying sticks that could be used as weapons.
However, there were concerns that vigilante reprisals from the British Asian community in Birmingham could follow the deaths of three men who were killed while protecting local businesses when a car was driven into them on Tuesday night.
Haroon Jahan (21) Shahzad Ali (30) and Abdul Musavir (31) were taken to hospital but died from their injuries.
West Midlands Police said the incident happened when a group of men gathered close to a petrol station in Dudley Road, which had apparently been attacked. A 32-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder.
Police warned would-be vigilantes that taking the law into their own hands, however well intentioned, would divert police resources away from the looters and arsonists.
Steve Kavanagh, the deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said: "What I don't need is these so-called vigilantes, who appeared to have been drinking too much and taking policing resources away from what they should have been doing -- which is preventing the looting.
"These are small pockets of people. They're frustrated, they're angry, and that's totally understandable. But the support that we need is to allow those officers to prevent looting and prevent crime."
He said it was "ironic" that media pictures showed looting in areas where there were "no police available" while officers were being diverted to stop vigilantes elsewhere. "That needs to stop," he said.
In Enfield, north London, an estimated 300 locals turned out to protect property on Tuesday after two nights of rioting.
One, Dean Nelson, a 33 year-old boiler technician, told the BBC: "We're not going to stand here and take it any more. It's about time we stood up -- not for violence but just to stand here and show we're not going to take it any more."
Under the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, homeowners who use "reasonable force" to protect themselves should not face prosecution. But they must not use more force than necessary. Experts say this can come down to a subtle difference, with anyone who chases an attacker likely to be at risk of committing an offence. (©Daily Telegraph, London)