Rioters strike Bethnal Green: VIDEO of the violence unfolding

Rioters stormed Bethnal Green last night, looting shops and smashing in windows as the violence in neighbouring boroughs spilled over the border.

Restaurant owners in Brick Lane had to lock themselves and customers in as groups of youths made their way through the popular curry district.

But police managed to contain the mobs and restaurant workers say only about 20 to 30 youths entered the street.

The worst of the violence spilled out into surrounding Whitechapel to the south and Bethnal Green to the north.

Bethnal Green Road was closed by police after groups of rioters hit the area between Cambridge Heath Road and Vallance Road.

Thousands of pounds of trade were lost as shops were looted and restaurants forced to close up and the streets were strewn with glass.

Imran Ahmed, a worker at Prithi restaurant in Brick Lane, said: “We lost a lot of business because people were scared to go out on the streets. It stops tourists coming and affects all of us.

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“It’s just a disaster. These people don’t have an intention, they don’t have a message, they are just doing this for fun.”

Another worker in Brick Lane’s Clipper Bangladeshi Cuisine who saw the scenes unfold at around 10pm said: “We saw a few youths running past in Brick Lane but I don’t think the police allowed most of them to get in.

“Everyone put their shutters down and we kept them closed for the whole night. We lost a lot of business – at least 20 customers.

“It’s ridiculous. It’s just hooliganism. The general public are the ones getting hurt. Nothing is going to happen to the government.”

Shops in Bethnal Green Road and Whitechapel Road bore the brunt of the riots.

Designer store Zee & Co in Roman Road was particularly hard hit and had its entire stock – worth thousands of pounds – looted by a mob.

At about 10.25pm a group of 60 rioters broke into Tesco Express in Pepper Street and stole about �15,000 worth of goods.

A security guard was assaulted in Millharbour on the Isle of Dogs after about 40 youths wearing balaclavas stormed offices.

Many shopkeepers in the affected areas closed early today, as did Old Spitalfields market.

Five police officers were injured during the violence and a number of police vehicles damaged.

Senior Tower Hamlets police officers were on duty throughout the night and many had cancelled their rest days and holidays to join their colleagues.

The scenes across London were sparked by riots in Tottenham following the death of Mark Duggan who was shot by police during an attempted arrest on Thursday.

He was the cousin of 23-year-old Kelvin Easton, who was stabbed to death in Boheme nightclub in Mile End in March.

As the riots spread, politicians and community leaders in Tower Hamlets called for calm.

Tower Hamlets Police Borough commander Paul Rickett said “There are a large number of uniformed officers on the street in response to these unprecedented incidents.

“I can reassure the people who live and work in Tower Hamlets that we are here to keep you safe. Together with the council and community leaders we are doing all we can to prevent further disorder and bring to justice those who commit crime.”

Just hours before the looters struck the East End, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Rushanara Ali called for youth groups and community organisations to come together and unite against the “reckless violence”.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman took to the streets to assess the damage after last night’s unrest.

He said: “Young people should not target their anger at their own community. It is not our local shopkeepers and businesses that are to blame.”

The anger triggered by youth unemployment and service cuts has been a catalyst, he said, adding: “I believe when full investigations are carried out one of the factors identified will be a sense of anger among our young people that they have been forgotten.”

Cllr Josh Peck, leader of the Tower Hamlets Labour party, said: “There is no excuse for the mindless criminality that we saw in Tower Hamlets last night.

“It is important that residents remain calm, make sure they know their children are at home and look out for one another in the days and nights ahead.”

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