Volunteers join hands for a moment of silence Tuesday before helping to clean up Clarence Road, Hackney, where rioters destroyed a shop and burned several cars during the rioting in London on Monday night.
by Ian Johnston, msnbc.com
LONDON — As this city waited in fear of a fourth night of violent rioting Tuesday, there were growing signs of a grassroots fight-back against the looters.
In the suburb of Dalston, a group of about 150 mainly Turkish restaurant and store staff became overnight heroes when they took to the streets late Monday to guard their businesses.
They chased off a gang of about 50 to 60 youths, who had set a bus on fire and started smashing store windows, one worker told msnbc.com, confirming other reports.
People took to Twitter to hail their bravery. "Things have calmed down in Dalston — largely due to the heroic mobs of Turkish men standing guard ...!" James McMahon, editor of heavy-metal music magazine Kerrang! tweeted.
And on the nearby Pembury Estate in Hackney, where looters destroyed a convenience store and set fire to several vehicles, there was a different form of resistance.
A group of about 300 people gathered Tuesday morning with brushes, shovels and gloves after an appeal on Twitter, Facebook and other Internet sites under the slogan #riotcleanup. That hashtag was trending on Twitter in the U.K. and even worldwide, along with #prayforlondon, at about 9.30 a.m. ET Tuesday.
The volunteers helped city council workers remove the remains of burned-out cars from the street after holding a moment of silence to mark their opposition to the violence.
There were similar scenes in other parts of the city, including Clapham and Camden, with several websites being set to help people know how to help, such as www.riotcleanup.co.uk.
At the Pembury Estate, Rob Wickham, the Church of England's Rector of Hackney, told reporters that they had wanted to gather at the place where the majority of the violence took place "as a mark of solidarity."
Ian Johnston, msnbc.com
Sivaharan Kandiah, owner of the Clarence Convenience Store on Clarence Road, Hackney, which was ransacked by rioters on Monday night, causing $49,000 worth of damage.
Wickham told the crowd that they were there to show that Hackney was "indeed against all that happened last night." He asked the crowd, "If you are people of prayer, pray for the shopkeepers on this street and the people of the Pembury Estate.”
He told reporters that he lived nearby in what he described as normally a "beautiful neighborhood — wonderful, vibrant ... a creative place."
"I was shocked, appalled, probably the same as everyone else," he told reporters, adding "it's frightening."
Nearby, appearing almost grief-stricken, shopkeeper Sivaharan Kandiah, 39, stared at the remains of his looted store.
Rioters smashed their way through metal screens protecting the Clarence Convenience Store and stole or destroyed almost everything they found. One elderly onlooker, who declined to give his name, told msnbc that he saw ice cream and other goods being thrown into a burning car nearby.
Originally from the war-torn Tamil area of Sri Lanka, Kandiah has run the shop for 11 years.
"Never had any problems. You work 70, 80 hours a week and you end up with this. This is what the local community has done to you," he said, wondering why only his store in the row of small businesses had been attacked.
"Everything gone, all wiped out," he added, saying he was unsure if his insurance would cover what he estimated to be a 30,000-pound ($49,000) loss.
Kandiah said he had a wife and two children and wondered whether they would now be "all thrown out in the street."
A steady stream of local people came to console him. Darren Jenkins, 29, said Kandiah was a "loved member of the community." "If it happens to a guy like him, everyone is in trouble," he said.
Jenkins said he could not believe local people had attacked the store. "He's the nicest guy on this road. He's never been robbed in his life and this is one of the worst gang areas in Hackney," he told msnbc.com.
'I just wanted to help'
The local government had done much of the cleanup work on the street by the time the volunteers arrived; a vehicle-recovery truck had to sound its horn to move through the crowd of people as they gathered to hold a moment of silence.
However, Ryan Wilson, 37, an actor and musician, was among those who did help with the clean-up, getting splattered with the charred remains of a burned-out car in the process.
"I just wanted to help. It's only a token, I must admit, but you know ... better than sitting on the sidelines," he said.
His friend Aysha Shah, 28, who lives nearby, told msnbc.com that local people on a nearby street had pushed burning trashcans off the road with their cars.
Ian Johnston, msnbc.com
Volunteer Ryan Wilson, left, pictured with his friend Aysha Shah, came to help clean up Clarence Road, Hackney, where rioters destroyed a shop and burned several cars on Monday night.
"Obviously people are scared and frightened, but at the same time they are trying to stop this," she said.
Shah said also Facebook groups were being set up so people could band together in the event of trouble.
"I don't think this is the end of it, especially in areas like this where there's poverty," she said. "It's been bubbling away for a while and is just now exploding. I don't want to be living in a war zone."
Shah found the "brilliant" actions of the Turkish shopkeepers inspirational. "I love it. That's what we need: community support, group support, safety in numbers," she said.
Turkish 'never afraid'
In Dalston, msnbc.com spoke to several Turkish people in businesses in the area who said they were not involved in chasing off the rioters or who did not want to speak to journalists.
However one man spoke on condition that the place where he works was not identified.
Frankie, 29, who also declined to give his surname, said the local Turkish community in the area was "tight," clasping his hands together for emphasis.
So when a crowd of 50 to 60 youths set fire to a bus and smashed the window of an outlet of the restaurant chain Nando's at about 10 p.m. local time (5 p.m. ET) Monday, they met a determined response.
"They (the looters) came onto the street and all the shopkeepers, they defend themselves because the police do nothing," Frankie said.
"The shopkeepers push them out. They just push defensively, they didn't let them touch anywhere," he added.
He estimated about 150 shopkeepers, some armed with sticks, took part. "Turkish people never afraid ... otherwise they (the looters) would do what they want to do."
The confrontation did not come to blows, Frankie said.
"They wanted to smash everywhere and wanted to break windows, they wanted to steal something .... PCs, laptops (but) they couldn't find that here. Also they didn't think people were going to defend themselves. It was a shock."
"We pushed them back three times," he said, adding they were ready to do the same again.
"I think they will come today as well."