Ten years since London riots: how the East End was hit

Then Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman inspects a burnt-out car on the Isle of Dogs after the 2011 riots

Then Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman inspects a burnt-out car on the Isle of Dogs after the 2011 riots - Credit: Mike Brooke

We look back at the 2011 riots in the East End on the tenth anniversary of the troubles starting across the capital.

Shops were looted along the Roman Road and windows wrecked in Bethnal Green, Brick Lane and Mile End in disturbances on the night of Monday, August 8. 

One shocking incident saw a family escape into a neighbour's property off Westferry Road after their home was attacked by a 50-strong armed mob.

Four cars were set ablaze amidst looting.

Then Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman got a call and went with his team to arrange emergency shelter and later a permanent home for the family away from the Isle of Dogs. 

“This unacceptable violence has scarred this community,” he told the East London Advertiser.

The father, who was out collecting one of his children when the attackers turned up, recalled later: “My oldest son held the front door as long as he could while the family got out over the back. My family would have been killed if my neighbour hadn’t taken them in.”

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The burning cars brought out angry neighbours and the mob retreated. 

What the 2011 rioters did in Bethnal Green

What the 2011 rioters did in Bethnal Green - Credit: Mike Brooke

The imam at the East London Mosque, Sheikh Abdul Qayum, called on youths in the Muslim community not to get involved after disturbances in Brick Lane. 

He issued a statement telling his young people to “keep away from riots and go home".  

It was a punishing night for East End traders when gangs began gathering. The shutters went down — but didn’t stop the looting.  

Looted Zee & Co designer store in Roman Road

Looted Zee & Co designer store in Roman Road - Credit: Mike Brooke

Among the worst hit along Roman Road was Zee & Co designer store with its steel security door smashed and the entire stock looted. 

Passengers getting off the DLR at All Saints in Poplar were confronted by youths hurling bricks and bottles at the station entrance. One passenger said: “I had to walk through them and was terrified.”  

Police get witness statements morning after 2011 riot in Roman Road

Police get witness statements morning after 2011 riot in Roman Road - Credit: Mike Brooke

A newsagent trapped in his shop recalled: “I was scared and thought they were trying to kill me.” Police arrived and chased the youths off.  

Another trader was trapped in his motor workshop: “I couldn’t get out — the police told me to put the shutters down and stay inside.”  

Whole plate-glass window smashed at The Money Shop in Bethnal Green Road

Whole plate-glass window smashed at The Money Shop in Bethnal Green Road - Credit: Mike Brooke

Windows were smashed along Bethnal Green Road. The Halifax was trashed, as were Specsavers and The Money Shop. Barclays bank had its window cracked, while even Spitalfields Crypt charity shop was hit.  

Street cleansing crews arrived at 6am next day to clean up. Ops manager Tony Palladino said: “It's sad when the mob takes to the street as an excuse to loot and vandalise.” 

Shame on the nation... 2011 summer riot damage at Specsavers

Shame on the nation... 2011 summer riot damage at Specsavers - Credit: Mike Brooke

Former MP Jim Fitzpatrick condemned the violence when he invoked the “spirit of defiance” from the 1940 London Blitz: “Now we employ the means and morals to defeat mob rule.”  

That wartime spirit, like the morning after an air raid, was voiced by a woman who had witnessed police cars chasing 30 youths on bikes: “We residents in Bethnal Green will clear up this mess and just carry on.”  

Smashed glass the morning after in Bethnal Green Road

Smashed glass the morning after in Bethnal Green Road - Credit: Mike Brooke

But it wasn’t over when the rioting stopped. Police pursued the rioters for the next 12 months using CCTV images and public appeals. 

An average of three arrests were still being made each week in the East End alone by the first anniversary in 2012. 

A fifth of all suspects caught on CCTV from disturbances at Bethnal Green, Whitechapel and Mile End had handed themselves in once their images were published. 

Snap of a snapper catching the damage from 2011 rioting the night before

Snap of a snapper catching the damage from 2011 rioting the night before - Credit: Mike Brooke

Police were also inundated with pictures people had taken on their mobile phones.

They collared 140 suspects from Tower Hamlets alone in 12 months, 95 of whom were charged with violence and disorder, burglary, robbery or arson with a conviction rate of four out of five from a night the East End would never forget.

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