Reporting the Riots
Arriving in Hackney at around half past six on Monday evening, it felt like the pause button had been pressed on the violence and rioting of an hour or so earlier.
But what we encountered was a mood I had never come across in the UK before.
The atmosphere was intense: intensely nervy, intensely twitchy.
Mutual suspicion reigned supreme. The local people were suspicious of the police and the journalists. The police were suspicious of the local people and the journalists. And the journalists - me included - were suspicious of the local people and the police.
There was nothing to puncture the suspicion, and if you allowed yourself to forget it for a moment, there would soon be a reminder. When a policeman accidently dropped his riot helmet, people near us turned round instantly, their facial expression screaming nervousness.
Suddenly smoke could be seen rising into the evening sky. A car had been set on fire in a nearby street. Far from suspicion being punctured, it was inflated. The riot had begun again, on Clarence Road. Fireworks arced towards the police lines, officers on horseback and with dogs rushed past us. The dogs later returned, and were thanked for their work as water was poured out into a series of bowls set out in the middle of the closed road.
The fluidity of the situation was as frightening as the friction: the violence, thuggish behaviour and yobbery switching rapidly from street to street. But as locals, the police and reporters began to hear the violence was worse elsewhere, there was another change. Most of the police in Hackney had to move elsewhere.
As the looting of a convenience store continued, most of the police left. The atmosphere changed again. The main focus of the rioters' anger, the police, had all but gone. What remained was a pent-up mob, helping themselves to bottles of wine from the shop and bikes padlocked to fences. Bins were upturned, bottles were smashed.
It wasn't just the police that had moved on. In crude news terms, the news had too. To Croydon, to Peckham, to Woolwich, where the rioting was worse.
The news value of where we were was falling, the danger was rising. Witnessing lawlessness all around you, with not a police officer in sight, is frightening. There were intense pockets of arbitrary lawlessness. And it was time to leave.
Chris Mason is 5 live's political reporter.
5 live has ongoing coverage and reaction to the riots. You can hear a selection of clips on our Best Bits page.
BBC News Online - UK riots live coverage