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There's a riot going on...

If any of you have seen the scary pictures from London over the last few days, no need to cancel your holiday, the unrest generally has not been anywhere a tourist would be likely to go. But keep your eyes and ears open, and it might not be a good idea to go to those "edgy" nightlife areas this week.

Posted by
1427 posts

I too certainly hope they get this under control very soon. How very sad for the city. We also leave for London in a couple weeks - going to spend 3 days in London and then go to the countryside. In London, we're staying in Kensington - Notting Hill is quite close, I believe.

Posted by
2193 posts

Let's hope it's under control sooner than two weeks...even the LA riots in '92 ended after six days (and only after the National Guard and US Marines moved in...don't recall the LAPD having anything under control until then).

Posted by
11469 posts

Except it seems the rioting has spread to Notting Hill. The BBC is reporting some restaurant patrons in that area were robbed.

Posted by
8997 posts

Word of advice for anyone who is there or will be traveling to London: If you see any policemen in riot gear, do not approach them, or talk to them...even if it looks like they're just "hanging out". I've heard that lesson the hard way twice: Amsterdam, and Mexico City.

Posted by
2747 posts

Yeah, I am keeping my eye on it. Scheduled to fly into London in a couple weeks. Was planning on a few days there (never been) before heading to France. I'm considering just heading straight for a train to Paris after the plane lands at Gatwick, or possibly diverting to Amsterdam or Brussles for the few days before I was supposed to be in France. Any other suggestions, both for ways to know if I need to go to a back-up plan and skip London, and for places to spend 3-4 days if flying into London is a given, as is going to Paris after the 3-4 days?

Posted by
283 posts

Definitely don't bother changing your travel plans as all of this will die down shortly. The International Olympic Committee is in town this week so expect some resolution in the next couple of days as the UK wants to demonstrate it can handle a situation like this. Philip, I wouldn't necessarily say 'has not been anywhere a tourist would be likely to go' because there has been unrest in Oxford Street. Not quite the same tourist destination as the V&A, sure but central London has had it's own spontaneous trouble in recent times... don't forget the recent protests for students and teachers which also resulted in looting and trouble. As usual, just keep your wits about you when in public areas.

Posted by
2989 posts

Eli, I am also disgusted by the news. So much disregard for other people's property and safety. Here is the account of the people being attacked inside The Ledbury restaurant in Notting Hill: http://news.travel.aol.com/2011/08/09/london-rioters-interrupt-tourists-fancy-dinner-get-scared-off/ You can click on the link to this woman's personal blog to read her account of what it was like to be sitting in the restaurant when this happened. The rioters broke the front window and glass door, and glass was all over the customers and their food. The muggers took her wedding rings, and the kitchen staff ran the muggers away with knives and frying pans as weapons. The second time the muggers returned, the customers locked themselves in the wine cellar and bathrooms. Here's her frightening account: http://www.runawaysquirrels.com/ For anyone wishing to look up the location on Google maps, the address is 33 Roland Gardens.

Posted by
6485 posts

Miranda don't be foolish and drop London from your travel plans. London has more CCTV cameras than any other city in the world. Big brother does watch and respond quickly. I guarantee with the International Olympic Committee meeting this week London police and other security forces are monitoring the situation VERY carefully. Image is everything and no way this great city wants the rest of the world to believe it is unsafe for visitors now or in the future. Per usual the news media has aggrandized it. Stay the course and visit London. It's a wonderful city. Don't let these disenchanted thugs scare you away!!!

Posted by
2989 posts

Miranda, I agree with Claudia, Eli and Jenufa. Don't postpone your trip to London. Surely this will be under control soon. Also, there's tons of great stuff to do outside of London. Since you mentioned you will be coming into Gatwick, that will put you near some great sites in Kent, such as Hever Castle, Leeds Castle, and Chartwell. Also Dover Castle is on the coast, and you can take a ferryboat over to France from Dover. That's just in case you have any qualms at all about going into London once you get to England.

Posted by
970 posts

Go. Avoid areas where rioters are reported. Few, if any, are among the usual tourist haunts. This is not widespread civil unrest by thousands of people. From reports I've seen, most of the rioting crowds numbered in the few hundreds. Police presence has been increased six-fold. The PM came back from holiday and called Parliament to a special session. Expect it to end soon, if not in a pretty fashion.

Posted by
31530 posts

Michael Schneider, "If you see any policemen in riot gear, do not approach them, or talk to them" Could you elaborate on that? I've never had any problems speaking with Police Officers (so far), so not sure why this would be a problem? Philip, I've been watching the news reports carefully, especially relating to the "expanding area" these riots are occurring in. Reports this morning indicated that Bristol, Liverpool and the Salford area of Manchester were also affected to some degree. I'll be flying into London in a few weeks and hopefully they've got it sorted by then. I'll only be there long enough to get a connecting flight to Edinburgh, so hopefully the problems don't spread to Scotland. In any case, I will be proceeding with my carefully planned holiday, and I will NOT let the actions of these thugs and criminals dictate my travel plans. In watching the reports this morning, it occurred to me that perhaps it's time to get the British Army involved, as the Police seem to be a bit overwhelmed and outnumbered. The Army will "tune-up" those morons and get things under control very quickly (one of my relatives was in the British Army, so I know they don't put up with any cr@p)! Cheers!

Posted by
1806 posts

@Ken: There's a very big difference between approaching and talking to a cop wearing his normal everyday uniform and one who is in full-on riot gear. While I can't speak for the London police, my boyfriend is a police officer and if he is in riot gear and has someone coming towards him, he is going to react. He doesn't know what you are up to. He's not going to put down his shield and take off his helmet so he can have a friendly chat and tell you what's going on. So unless you want to be clubbed over your Tilley hat or take a rubber bullet to the groin, it's best to quickly leave the area when you see cops in riot gear.

Posted by
31530 posts

Ceidleh, As a former Paramedic, I've worked with many Police officers over the years, so perhaps never considered a scenario such as the one you described (however, I wasn't wearing a Tilley hat when working, so perhaps that's the difference - BTW, the Hat is now washed and packed for my upcoming trip, but maybe I should add some padding to it). One of my Sons is a Police officer so I could have asked him this question, but I was somewhat curious on what type of "experiences" Michael was referring to.

Posted by
2989 posts

Things seem to be much worse tonight. Here's a link from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14449675 You can scroll down through the "Live Texts" feature on the left side of the page to see texts from all over England and pics that people are posting from their cell phones of their street and what's happening.

Posted by
8997 posts

Ceidleh describes it well. When in dressed in riot gear they are not in "community service" mode but rather "us against them" mode. I'll described my experiences: Back in 2000 when Holland was hosting the Euro 2000 soccer tournament, I was exiting the Amsterdam Arena after a quarterfinal match. I made a wrong turn and realized I was heading towards the parking lots instead of the train station. I saw a group of police officers in riot gear just standing around talking to one another, I stopped and politely asked which direction the station was. They all turned to me and gave very menacing looks, and didn't respond. I repeated the question and out of no where one of the officers raised his baton and pushed me to the ground. A couple of sympathetic locals helped me up and whisked me away, and were kind enough to give me the facts of life about riot police:)
(continued)

Posted by
8997 posts

(continued) Second incident occurred 2009 Mexico City. I was in town for the World Cup qualifier Mexico v USA at Azteca Stadium. Mexico was victorious, and as is tradition the citizens of the city celebrate at a monument in the city center. By coincidence the hotel most US fans were staying at was just across the street from said monument (the Sheraton). As soon as I returned to the hotel after the match I changed out of my USA jersey and headed out to grab a quick bite to eat; the Embassy recommended Americans keep a low profile. After filling my stomach I headed back to the Sheraton and saw people (locals) running towards me in panic, followed by a line of riot police. Was like a deer caught in the headlights and froze, but managed to duck into a side street a the last second before the police got to me.
(contintued)

Posted by
8997 posts

(continued) I was able to make my way back to the hotel, but discovered another line of riot police complete surrounding the front of the Sheraton...protecting it as a large group of locals were throwing everything they could get their hands at the building...and I was caught in the middle of all this mayhem. The only thing I could think to do was walk towards the police line, they would see I was a gringo with a key card for the Sheraton and let me pass. Wrong move as a baton was swung at my head, miraculously I ducked and it didn't make contact. A few seconds later a charge order was given and the police the line literally beat the hooligans back to a safer distance. Miraculously again the police line passed right through me, and I escaped unscathed. Had I ignored the Embassy's warning and headed out with my USA jersey, there's no doubt I would have been a dead man! Having said all this I have nothing but respect for the Mexico City police. I have been to MC several times for other USA matches and they gone above the call of duty to make sure no harm comes our way. As an example here's video I took outside of the Stadium: http://youtu.be/UPLf3fVevws http://youtu.be/JE65Z9nl6qU

Posted by
8997 posts

Finally, I forgot to mention....the reason the riot police had to protect the hotel was because a foolish US fan thought I would be clever to hang a large US flag outside the window of their hotel room, during the local's celebrations. Oyy Veyy!

Posted by
31530 posts

Michael, Thanks very much for the long and detailed reply! I'll definitely keep your comments in mind should I ever encounter a riot situation. What kind of an idiot hangs a flag out the window in a "highly charged atmosphere" like that! That's something like poking a Grizzly Bear in the ribs with a sharp stick, so the moron shouldn't be too surprised at the result. As you can imagine, we don't encounter too many riot situations here. The recent situation in Vancouver was something that doesn't occur too often, and thankfully I don't live anywhere near there.

Posted by
31530 posts

James, This is not hard to understand at all. I didn't intend to convey the impression that I would engage in "banal" conversations with officers in riot gear, so it's unfortunate that it came across that way. It's not necessary to use condescending "talk Canadian" references, as I do understand. I've never been involved in any large-scale riot situations, and simply wanted to get some further information on the scenarios that Michael was involved in. As one of the purposes of this Forum is the sharing of information, I thought this might be useful to file away for "future reference". Cheers!

Posted by
1829 posts

I have been watching the comments on here and other Boards over the last couple of days and I think it is important to get a sense of perspective about the nature of the trouble. Apart from the area around the original incident in Tottenham (north London) the rest has been opportunistic looting and mindless vandalism by over excited kids and the criminal element. The police chief in Lewisham, a neighbouring Borough, said on Tuesday that the trouble there was not the real thing but people testing police reaction and it died down when the police turned up. Similarly we had a couple of incidents in our main shopping streets late Monday night but the police shut them down. I live 5 minutes walk from that area and only knew about it at the time from reports on the internet. If what I read had been true our town centre would have been a smoking ruin the next day. As it was there were a few cracked shop windows and a small specialist hifi shop just off the main area (and nearer to me) was emptied. These people knew what they were looking for and took advantage of the police concentrating their actvities on the main streets. Who knows how it will pan out but it seems to me that, if similar incidents over the years are anything to go by, it will soon die down. This is very frightening for anyone caught up in it but I would stick my neck out and say that if you stick to the main tourist areas and avoid suburban shopping areas at night you should be OK. Apart from an increased police presence you should be unaware that anything untoward is going on. Keep coming to London and the UK, there are millions of us getting on with our normal lives. Like you, the only sight we have of what is going on is on our televisions and in our newspapers.

Posted by
2747 posts

If everything stays as it is, or of course gets better, I'm still going. But what I was concerned about was the potential for this to spread in a big way to the tourist areas...which is certainly possible if not likely. It's all well and good to not let the bad guys affect your plans, but if it gets bad enough that sights are closed or super hard to get to, etc, then it would be better to go elsewhere and return to London when things are accessible IMO. Not out of fear as much as just plain ease of visiting! But we are not at that point and I doubt it will come to that. I'm just obsessive and have back-up plans for my back-up plans :)

Posted by
2193 posts

After dark in late 2009 in Madrid, we were walking back to the Puerta del Sol area from Príncipe Pío station and had to stop at a bar we just passed when we saw riot police on TV beating the living crap out of a bunch of demonstrators somewhere in Spain. It was pretty frightening to watch, but imagine our surprise 20 minutes later when we got to PdS and found dozens of police vans and probably a hundred officers along with a crowd of a thousand or more demonstrators. Anyway, it turned out that this was not the same demonstration...a mostly peaceful but rambunctious rally against proposed austerity measures to privatize some social security benefits. Only saw one drunk get manhandled by the cops, but they just roughed him up a little bit, sat him down on the curb, and told him not to move. When they walked away, he got up and headed back towards the crowd. Because of what we had just seen on TV, I could easily picture a similar thing happening if things got out of control. It was a little unsettling but an interesting experience. BTW, the police presence in the PdS and other areas was very visible the whole time we were in Madrid...probably a good thing. I just wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of one of those riot cop batons. Michael Schneider must have 9 lives...good advice to avoid demonstrations and similar situations. Had I known a big demonstration was occuring, we would have taken a different route back to the hotel.

Posted by
5669 posts

Hey, check out Rick's Blog. http://blog.ricksteves.com/ He is in London filming right now and says that he has not personally seen any rioting. And, of course, he is filming in the tourist areas. Pam

Posted by
635 posts

I personally plan on leaving in a couple of weeks for Great Britain. I have promised my wife we wouldn't go into any areas with riots. This trip only has us going into one area (London) where I've seen rioting in the news. I'm hoping it will all be quieted down before we get there. School starting should reduce some of the available participants. I also see the government mobilizing pretty strongly. I'm not sure I'd trust Rick's assessment of what's happening in London since he pushes "travel as a political act." Even if Parliment was burning I suspect he'd say come on over and show them you'll tour in the middle of their riots. He also didn't miss a chance to say how "austerity" is now costing the British more than they'll ever save. I suspect the British teens are probably more plugged into the US flash mobs that are currently striking cities around the US for our loot. We aren't getting anywhere near the media coverage England is. So far, it does appear to be only in England and not any other parts of the UK.

Posted by
852 posts

As Ken stated, we are also experiencing "bad" behavior in our cities. I know Milwaukee has had terrible problems with teenage crowds bothering folks at malls and festivals. Other cities have as well. In DC, we've had issues with groups of teenagers at Metro stations. Certainly not to the extent and severity of London, but it's still reeking havoc. NPR had a report that teen employment has been at a all time low this summer, which is causing some of the troubles coupled with the adult unemployment and lack of proper supervision.

Posted by
768 posts

| took a daytrip into London on Tuesday and then again yesterday, Thursday 8/12, and visited some of the main tourist areas (Westminter Area, St. Pauls, Trafalgar, Convent Garden, etc...) and saw no problems. We are going back for an overnight on Sunday (with our kids). I'm not worried. Unless someone tells me I should be!

Posted by
635 posts

David Cameron said he wants to get expertise from the US to help with their issues. From what I'm seeing it looks like it needs to be the other way around. The Brits are doing a pretty impressive job rounding up the thugs. That's almost unheard of over here. It sounds like it's over.

Posted by
5669 posts

I agree. I think it's quite amazing how they are they are rounding them up. Of course, there are more cameras in London than any other city, or at least so I've read. When I first heard about this, I wondered what would it would be like if this happened in NYC. Would it happen in Manhattan? in Midtown? I'm glad that things have settled down and now they are dealing with the aftermath. Pam

Posted by
7 posts

Just got home from London. Central London was completely quiet - the police were present everywhere! We stayed in on Tuesday nite (when it was rumored that the rioters were heading south), as did most. My daughter, who is currently living in the East End, did have a bit of a scare when two Bobbies locked up and secured the Boots Rx she and a friend were in, then quickly and quietly escorted them out the back to a tube station home. The biggest problem we had with the rioting was that our hop on/hop off tour bus was cancelled Tuesday afternoon, leaving us to catch a cab (and spend more $$) to get back to our hotel.

Posted by
977 posts

Ken I wouldn't be too sure about school starting affecting the number of riot participants. I think this is one of the core problems in these areas, these kids simply don't attend school.

Posted by
31530 posts

On the topic of riots, the media in the Vancouver area are starting to ask a few "pointed questions". There was a story on the evening news last night, where the question was why is it that in England the authorities have arrested and prosecuted over 1000 of the thugs involved, keeping the Courts operating 24-hours a day. OTOH, the authorities in Vancouver haven't charged a single individual in the Vancouver Stanley Cup riots, even though at least 30 have turned themselves in (and presumably admitted their guilt). Those interested can view the story here: www.globaltvbc.com/video/news+hour+top+stories+aug+15/video.html?v=2094986058#topstories/video (You'll need to drag the pointer to about 13:28 to get past the dreadful lead story). Although they seemed to get off to a "slow start", the authorities in England seem to be dong a great job of identifying and arresting the culprits.

Posted by
331 posts

I for one am pleased that the English police did not go in all guns blazing and that the army was not used. The riots were subdued and arrests were made without the police firing a shot (given that the initial shooting was not a part of the riot). Riots like this are like a flash flood, you cannot know where they are going to start or how strong they will be or where else they will erupt until you have a better knowledge of the situation. The police have been given a hard time in the press for not reacting immediately and with more aggression, but they are damned if they do and damned if they dont. They managed to contain the situation without resorting to the army, or water cannons and it all ended relatively peacefully. The rate at which the arrested are being charged and sentenced is exactly the sort of deterent we need. These deeds will not go unpunished. There is a programme to be televised this week with pictures of all the known culprits captured on CCTV to be shown nationwide. Let just hope they don't start screaming about their human rights.