U.K. far right promises vigilantism in riots

Stephen Lennon, 28, leader of the English Defense League, poses for a photograph following an interview with The Associated Press in Luton, approximately 27 miles (43 kilometers) from London, Tuesday, July 26, 2011. Lennon, leader of the English Defense League, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he does not condone Breivik's rampage but "the fact that so many people are scared - people have to listen to that." AP Photo/Paisley Dodds

LONDON - The leader of a British far-right group says its members are taking to the streets of British cities in an attempt to quell riots that have spread across the country for four nights.

Stephen Lennon, leader of the English Defense League, told The Associated Press that up to 1,000 members planned to turn out in Luton, where the group is based, and others areas that have suffered unrest, including the northwestern city of Manchester.

Lennon said some members had were already carrying out patrols trying to deter rioters, and that hundreds more would join them Wednesday.

"We're going to stop the riots — police obviously can't handle it," Lennon told the AP.

The far-right group was cited as an inspiration to Anders Behring Breivik who has confessed to the July 22 massacre in Norway.

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Thousands more police officers flooded London streets Tuesday in a bid to end Britain's worst rioting in a generation as nervous shopkeepers closed early and some residents stood guard to protect their neighborhoods. The unrest spread across central and northern England on a fourth night of violence driven by poor, diverse and brazen crowds of young people.

Scenes of ransacked stores, torched cars and blackened buildings frightened and outraged Britons just a year before London is to host the summer Olympic Games, and brought demands for a tougher response from law enforcement.

London's Metropolitan Police department put thousands more officers in the streets and said that by Wednesday there would be 16,000 — almost triple the number present Monday. Dozens of police were seen combing through the Canning Town area of east London as officers hunted for potential new flash points, but the department acknowledged it could not guarantee an end to the violence.

Though London saw no new unrest late Tuesday, but the chaos spread to other cities. A police station in the central England city of Nottingham was firebombed by a 40-strong mob, and hundreds of youths battled police in the northwestern city of Manchester.

Stores, offices and nursery schools across London closed early amid fears of fresh rioting. Many usually busy streets had an eerie calm as cafes, restaurants and pubs also decided to shut down for the night.

Many shops had their metal blinds pulled down, while other business owners rushed to secure plywood over their windows before nightfall.


Some London residents prepared to defend their homes and stores. Outside a Sikh temple in Southall, west London, residents stood guard and vowed to defend their place of worship if mobs of young rioters appeared. Another group marched through Enfield, in north London, aiming to deter looters.

In east London's Bethnal Green district, convenience store owner Adnan Butt, 28, said residents were tense.

"People are all at home — they're scared" of the rioters, he said.

London's deputy assistant police commissioner Steve Kavanagh vowed that large numbers of officers would remain on London's streets until calm was restored.

"We will continue with this additional policing for as long as is necessary. Our priority remains protecting the public and restoring order to our streets," he said.

In Nottingham, police said rioters had hurled firebombs though the window of a police station in the Canning Circus area of the city, but that there were no reports of injures. Eight men were arrested at the scene, where firefighters doused a blaze.

There are apparently some people who are taking the advantage of those hurt during the riots. A video that was later posted on YouTube captured a boy who looked injured and lying on the ground surrounded by a group of young people. While a good Samaritan helps the youth stand up, another person opens the boy's knapsack and robs him.

In Manchester, hundreds of youths rampaged through the city center, hurling bottles and stones at police and vandalizing stores. A women's clothing store on the city's main shopping street was set ablaze, along with a disused library in nearby Salford. Looters targeted stores selling designer clothes and expensive consumer electronics.

Neither Manchester nor Nottingham had previously been involved in unrest. There also was minor unrest for the first time in the central England locations of Leicester, Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.

Britain's riots began Saturday when an initially peaceful protest over a police shooting in London's Tottenham neighborhood turned violent. That clash has morphed into a general lawlessness in London and several other cities that police have struggled to halt with ordinary tactics. While the rioters have run off with sneakers, bikes, electronics and leather goods, they also have torched stores apparently just for the fun of seeing something burn.

Rioters, able to move quickly and regroup to avoid the police, have been left virtually unchallenged in several neighborhoods, plundering stores at will.

Police said they were considering the use of plastic bullets — blunt-nosed projectiles designed to deal punishing blows to rioters without penetrating the skin. Such weapons, formally called baton rounds, still are used to quell riots in Northern Ireland but have never been used by police on Britain's mainland.

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