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