Police 'overwhelmed' by riots in Manchester and Salford

Youths gather on Oldham Street in Manchester
Image caption,
Youths gathered on Oldham Street in Manchester as looters attacked shops in the city centre

Police have said they were overwhelmed by "unprecedented levels of violence and criminality" that erupted on the streets of Manchester and Salford.

Greater Manchester Police arrested 113 people overnight as thousands of youths ransacked shops, attacked officers and torched cars in the city centre.

Up to 200 people joined in a clean-up operation following the devastation.

However, Blackley MP Graham Stringer criticised police for not doing enough to stop the trouble.

Mr Stringer, Labour MP for Blackley & Broughton, said he believed the chief constable "has a lot to answer for".

"It was known that this was coming to Salford and Manchester, and now shops have been looted and set on fire.

Media caption,
The BBC's Chris Buckler watch police try to manage masked youths in Manchester

"The police knew it was coming. It was co-ordinated and organised by well-known criminals and gangsters.

"A lot more people should have been arrested for inciting this kind of behaviour."

Mr Stringer also questioned why police officers failed to make more arrests in the face of widespread vandalism and looting.

When people were smashing windows and setting fire to shops, people weren't being arrested," he said.

"I support the police very strongly but my side lost last night."

'Shameful destruction'

Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said more than 1,000 officers were deployed with support from neighbourhood staff and some officers from other forces.

However, he admitted they were "overwhelmed" by the number of rioters.

"Last night's shameful destruction saw some of the worst scenes I have ever witnessed as a police officer," he said.

"We saw swarms, hundreds, in fact, thousands of people intent on criminal violence coming into the city centre.

"We were taking attacks on our officers, we were protecting property where we could, but the numbers were so large."

But ACC Shewan denied that police officers "stood and watched" while crimes were committed.

"There were occasions where the crowds were so large and so violent that it would have been unsafe to deploy a handful of officers into those situations."

"It's very sad that businesses have been looted in this way and it's been a sickening night for the city centre of Manchester.

"But we say to the people of Greater Manchester we need your help in identifying the people responsible."

Meanwhile, hundreds of people joined council staff and business owners in a clean-up operation across the city centre, sweeping up broken glass and wreckage from the devastation caused the night before.

"Free stuff"

The violence started at Salford Shopping City in the middle of Tuesday afternoon, where rioters attacked police and set fire to shops.

BBC North West Tonight's political correspondent Arif Ansari said a cameraman was set upon just before crowds began attacking a Bargain Booze store and The Money Shop.

When the BBC asked two youths why they were rioting, one responded: "Why are you going to miss the opportunity to get free stuff that's worth loads of money?"

But they said it was not just about that, claiming it was in response to government cuts.

One added: "How many people have they arrested really, though, 10? I'm not really bothered. I'll keep doing this every day until I get caught."

He said he might be shouted at or grounded when he returned home but he would "live with that".

He added that it would be his first offence "so I'm not really bothered".

GMP said they were called to 800 incidents in the city centre and around 130 in Salford.

Ten officers were injured, including one who suffered a broken ankle.

Greater Manchester Fire Service reported 155 fires across the city centre and Salford.

About 100 business premises and a number of police vehicles were damaged.

Councillor Pat Karney, of Manchester City Council, said the violence marked "one of the worst days that Manchester has ever seen".

He said children as young as nine had joined in the rampage through the city centre.

A BBC radio car was set alight, as was a car belonging to a reporter.

The rioting later spread to the city centre, with Miss Selfridge in Market Street being set alight.

Crowds had gathered around Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens from late afternoon ahead of disorder in Market Street.

The Arndale Centre in the city centre closed early on Tuesday after a gang of about 25 youths ran in and attempted to break down the shutters of JD Sports.

Riot police in vans chased large groups of youths wearing ski masks and hoods, many on bikes, as they rampaged through the streets.

Gary Gray, who lives in the city centre, said he watched as crowds broke into shops.

He said: "There's way more of them than there are police. There's no way that the police can control it.

'Students mugged'

"The mob are turning on other people too. I got chased for taking pictures with my phone.

"They're chasing other people who are taking pictures and I saw a couple of students getting mugged."

Other shops affected included the Bang and Olufsen store off King Street, Diesel in King Street, Tesco Express in Princess Street, Sainsbury's Local in Bridge Street, as well as several in Deansgate and Oxford Road.

Image caption,
Miss Selfridge in Manchester's Market Street was set alight

Many city streets were cordoned off or were guarded by mounted officers, including Exchange Square, Market Street, St Ann's Square and Deansgate.

By 01:30 BST police said many cordons had been lifted.

In Salford, glass from shop windows and bus shelters littered the streets along with house bricks and rubble used to pelt riot police.

Officers and vans, one with a shattered windscreen, lined one shopping parade, with only small pockets of youths wandering the streets.

Police forces in Northumbria, Stafford and North Wales helped in the policing operation.

A fire engine was also attacked, causing minor damage.

There were also fires in Heywood and Oldham.

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