Prime Minister David Cameron said a "fightback" was under way Wednesday after four nights of violent riots as he authorised police to use water cannon for the first time in mainland Britain.
With Britain’s worst riots in a generation spreading to Manchester and three people being killed while defending their community in Birmingham, Cameron said there was a "sickness" in society.
He said London was quieter overnight after 16,000 police flooded the streets and vigilante groups protected stricken neighbourhoods from gangs who have burned down and raided dozens of shops and homes.
"We needed a fightback and a fightback is underway," Cameron [above] told a news conference outside 10 Downing Street after the second meeting of Britain’s COBRA security committee in as many days.
"We now have in place contingency plans for water cannon to be available at 24 hours’ notice," Cameron said, adding that police had already been authorised to use plastic baton rounds against rioters.
Water cannon have only previously been used in the troubled British province of Northern Ireland to tackle sectarian tensions between the Protestant and Roman Catholic communities.
The violence has raised questions about security ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games, and it prompted the cancellation of Wednesday’s friendly between England and the Netherlands at Wembley Stadium.
Cameron’s tough new line comes after he flew back from holiday in Tuscany on Tuesday to take charge of the biggest challenge to the Conservative-led coalition government since it came to power in May last year.
Police have arrested more than 1,100 people across the country for violence, disorder and looting since the riots erupted on Saturday in the north London district of Tottenham after police shot dead a man.
The prime minister dismissed "phoney concerns about human rights" over the issuing by police of photos of some of the suspected rioters. He also called for all those convicted over the disorder to be jailed.
The government has blamed "opportunistic" criminals for the unrest, but the opposition says cuts to social services and the failure to deal with underlying social problems has contributed to the riots.
In Birmingham, Britain’s second biggest city, police said they had arrested a man and launched a murder inquiry after an incident in which three Asian men died when they were hit by a speeding car.
Witnesses said the men who died had just come out of a mosque and were protecting their neighbourhood shops after a car was set alight nearby.
"They lost their lives for other people, doing the job of the police," Mohammed Shakiel said outside the hospital where the men were taken, prompting around 200 people to gather in support.
Despite the unrest, police and cricket officials announced that the Test match between England and India, due to take place at the nearby Edgbaston ground, would go ahead as planned on Wednesday.
The only other fatality of the riots so far was a man found with a gunshot wound to the head in a car in the south London suburb of Croydon.
Water Cannons In Use: A demonstrator falls after he was hit by a jet of water during protests against the government’s education policies, at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. Turkish riot police used water cannons to prevent the university students from marching to the ruling Justice and Development Party headquarters.Adem Altan / AFP - Getty Images
"Water cannons are commonly used on the Continent. In France, police used them against rioting youths in Paris earlier this year.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland has six of the vans, each costing Ł750,000.
Whereas early water cannons hit their targets with a high-pressure jet, modern machines are also capable of firing an intense wet haze that leaves protesters uncomfortable and struggling to breathe." Source
The Active Denial System (ADS) is a non-lethal, directed-energy weapon developed by the U.S. military. It is a strong millimeter-wave transmitter primarily used for crowd control (the "goodbye effect"). Some ADS systems such as HPEM ADS are also used to disable vehicles. Informally, the weapon is also called pain ray. Raytheon is currently marketing a reduced-range version of this technology.
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