England riots: Twitter and Facebook users plan clean-up

Image caption,
Hundreds of people turned out at Clapham Junction to tidy up

A massive clean-up operation is getting under way in areas affected by the riots across England.

Twitter and Facebook users are harnessing the power of social networking to co-ordinate operations.

In London, Croydon, Hackney and Enfield councils have already sent teams out to begin the clean-up.

The Association of British Insurers said the total cost of repairing the damage in the capital alone could run into tens of millions of pounds.

An account on Twitter called @riotcleanup has so far attracted more than 70,000 followers and is helping people to co-ordinate efforts in the English capital.

Artist Dan Thompson, 37, was behind the initial Twitter campaign, but since then has watched it take on a life of its own with local clean-up projects organised around the country.

"The footage last night of high streets and independent shops burning was terrifying to watch and I wanted to find a way to help that was quick, simple and practical," said Mr Thompson, from Worthing, who runs the Empty Shops Network.

The campaign began with just 10 people, said Mr Thompson, but has ballooned to see thousands up and down the country head out, broom in hand.

He said seeing hundreds of people in Clapham waving brooms in the air was a symbol of what Londoners and the British stand for, "It's phenomenal," he said.

He added that when Boris Johnson visited the area this afternoon there were cries of "Boris where's your broom?" before the London Mayor got stuck in to help volunteers.

A separate website dedicated to the clean-up has also been created. "This is not about the riots. This is about the clean up - Londoners who care, coming together to engender a sense of community," it states.

Others around the country are using the hashtag #riotscleanup to arrange to meet up and help clear areas around their homes.

'Strangely emotional'

Twitter is awash with heart-warming stories about people gathering to clean up riot-hit areas.

"Nicole", who is volunteering, tweeted: "Police at Clapham Junction just got spontaneous applause as they came through the crowd!"

Image caption,
Volunteers in Camden turned out to clean up

The BBC's Vanessa Barford, also at Clapham Junction, said there were cheers as firefighters left the scene of a party shop set alight on Monday night.

"About 50 people who have been waiting to help with the clear up operation waved brooms in the air in celebration," she said.

BBC journalist Michael Hirst said about 300 to 400 people had gathered at Clapham Junction station.

"Sunshine, high spirits, lots of joking and a community vibe," he said of the atmosphere.

"Andy" from London told the BBC: "On the train out of Waterloo I can see loads of people with brushes, gloves and dustpans heading to join the cleanup: London at its best."

Others, including many celebrities, heaped praise on volunteers who are trying to reverse the damage caused over the past three nights.

Comedian Dave Gorman tweeted: "Went to bed depressed by the news. Now feeling strangely emotional as I read about @riotcleanup. Amazing."

Chef Jamie Oliver tweeted: "Sadly my restaurant in Birmingham got smashed up windows, all gone whole area closed, can't open, staff and customers all safe!! Thankfully. God bless the communities getting together to sort this out #riotcleanup - people who care about their country!!

And Stephen Fry tweeted: "I do hope that if I was in London now I'd be as good & brave & kind as all those who are agreeing to meet & help clean up."

'Cleaner than usual'

Lewisham resident Claire Parkinson assembled a team of 20 people following disturbances in the area.

Ms Parkinson said the initiative was as much about showing support for businesses as about clearing up the damage.

"We want to see if they need any help - even if it is just getting them a cup of tea.

"We also want to show that we are not all bad - a lot of people are going to feel down after these events."

She added that Lewisham was "cleaner than usual" following the council's own operation.

In Ealing, where shops and restaurants were damaged, the clean-up operation is in full swing.

Reverend Sally Hitchiner said the area was "totally ransacked" on Monday night.

"A number of people in my church have taken a day off to come down here," she said.

"There's so many people wanting to help clear up that people are being been sent away because the clean-up is happening so quickly."

In Croydon, people were being signed up to help out with the clean-up efforts at East Croydon railway station.

Croydon Council has drafted in extra resources to help clean up areas, make businesses secure and help the community rebuild.

The council said it had already rehoused people whose homes were destroyed by fire or sealed off by the emergency services.

A spokeswoman for Hackney Council in north London said it had sent teams out "as soon as it was safe".

She added that the clean-up was "more or less finished".

In Enfield, roads closed after the riots reopened and Chris Bond, the council's cabinet member for the environment, praised street workers for their work enabling the town to reopen for business.

"This shows we will not let these criminals beat us," he said. "We will not surrender our streets to these mindless morons."

'Not in my city'

Further afield bartender Charles Jupiter set up the Liverpool Clean Up group on Facebook.

About 100 people turned out to help the 21-year-old clean up the Toxteth area, which was targeted in the early hours.

Image caption,
Charles Jupiter said Liverpool was ready if rioters struck again

"I thought, 'Not in my city'," Mr Jupiter said.

"People were posting, 'I'm embarrassed to be English, I'm embarrassed to be from London or Liverpool'."

And he warned would-be rioters: "I hope it doesn't happen again tonight, but if it does, we will be out here again.

"There are far many more decent people in Liverpool than those few who rioted."

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