Enfield Town was the centre of riots into the night of Sunday, August 7th.
The day after, I interviewed people for a story that never got published.
Here is their story.
A shopper, 26, was in Enfield Town’s Superdrug as rumours of riots spreading to Wood Green and Turnpike Lane after Tottenham were buzzing in the air and online.
At 2pm, police appeared and told shop managers to close their stores and clear the area for 4pm.
She said: “The police told the shopkeepers to close the shops, and the shop keepers told us to make our way home, because they were expecting trouble. They got their information from Twitter, apparently.”
At 6pm, a pensioner returning home in a taxi felt something wasn’t quite right with the town she knows so well.
She said: “I had no idea I was so close to the riots! But it was unusually crowded for a Sunday evening and the atmosphere was heavy. It felt weird, different.
I told the driver I would walk from down my road. When I neared my house, I saw two boys in tracksuits in the way. They made me feel frightened anyway and I almost wanted to warn an elderly lady coming towards them. I slowly crossed the road to avoid them. Their faces weren’t covered and they didn’t have hoodies, but they did seem restless and waiting for something. One of them was hopping and on off the pavement.”
A 20-year-old returning from work to his home in a small side street near to Enfield Town Station tells how terrified he was:
“I was on the bus around 6pm and saw a large number of youths in black or dark hoodies done up the nose, so all you could see were their eyes. I had to walk past the station because the bus wouldn’t go to the town. When I got home I watched from my window. Some of them had Halloween masks on to disguise their identity – it’s terrifying that they had to cover themselves up so much because of what they were doing.
“Throughout the night, I heard police helicopters constantly from about 7pm. The noise was deafening, the helicopters were so low I thought they were going to land on the roof. The sirens were heard on and off, as if they got to one place and quickly moved on as rioters scattered. On the BBC website, it said rioters were scattering into alleyways – they meant my road as well. Youths were running back and forth outside my house, it was confusing, and I saw groups herded out with police following and youths were throwing things at police. The police closed off one end of my road to stop people escaping and the helicopters had flashlights scanning the ground nearby.
“I heard a wall from someone’s garden in a nearby street was knocked down to get the bricks and throw them at police. It was probably true as I saw yellow dust and bits and pieces of bricks across the ground on the way to work the next day.
“It must have been a lot of people, I didn’t imagine so many violent people lived or came here. I saw a couple of them my age but most of them looked 17, or younger – some of them must have been about 12. I didn’t go outside, after seeing Tottenham on TV the night before I didn’t fancy my chances, but some residents did go out to look. One neighbour got in his car and just drove off. It was terrifying – I’ve never seen anything like it.
“The first I heard was the jewellery shop had been attacked and they scattered when police arrived, and then it seemed to happen everywhere else. I don’t think I’ve been so terrified in my own home before – there was just no safety.”
Rioters, pushed back along Southbury Road by police, returned to Enfield Town centre around 8:50pm according to local news reports. Riot police were seen guarding Enfield Town Station and a police car was pelted with bricks in Church Street.
Buses were diverted, trains to Enfield Town were cancelled… and an Enfield taxi firm closed at 9pm.
The manager said: “My staff were so scared I had no choice but to close the office. I took calls from remote access but my drivers would not go near Enfield Town all night.
“We were in the office until 9pm – we saw enough. We saw kids who looked 8 or 9 years old looting boxes of TVs and goods and running to waiting cars with what must have been their parents, their mums. We saw kids with boxes waiting for the bus. It was so stupid, it was unbelievable.
“Politicians may talk about human rights of protestors, but how about the human rights of ordinary people? The police can’t do enough when they don’t have the power of law behind them.
“It was a mix of black and white, adults and kids, it wasn’t a riot – it was total looting. It was organised thieving. I’ve never seen it in Enfield before.”
So where was I?
I was at the Camden Fringe on Sunday night with my cousin. I came out of the show at 9:30pm to see worried texts from my mum insisting I get a taxi all the way home. Checking my cousin’s trusty Blackberry, the official BBC news seemed unusually quiet… while Twitter was abuzz and compounding with tweets every 30 seconds with frequent updates and information about Enfield Town and the Enfield Retail Park shops being ransacked, burned and looted. While a lot of tweets were backed up by photos, references and local or national news journalists, there were equally many wildfire rumours. Nevertheless, the rumour that there was a news blackout only spread because the news reports were a couple of hours behind Twitter.
I decided not to gamble on a journey home and, going home with my cousin instead, I avoided London altogether. I was on my way out of the city by midnight when the hashtag #Enfield was trending worldwide on Twitter and Paul Lewis at The Guardian was a notable one of many journalists covering the biggest news story that headlined out all the way to the New Zealand Herald within a matter of hours and, at its centre, was my nearest town.
The official Metropolitan Police statement on Monday (published with permission) said:
“Police are tonight responding to copycat criminal activity across London and are deploying officers to tackle it.
There has been looting in a number of boroughs in north, east and south London by small and mobile groups. Groups of youths continue to attack police officers and a number of police vehicles have been damaged.”
Commander Christine Jones said: “This is a challenging situation with small pockets of violence, looting and disorder breaking out in a number of boroughs.”
She added: “Officers are once again putting themselves in harm’s way to arrest those responsible and prevent further action. I am proud of their dedication and bravery.
“I, along with a vast majority of Londoners, condemn this mindless criminality. It serves no purpose and only results in the destruction of people’s livelihoods and communities.”
Attacks on police officers and vehicles, looting and disorder through Enfield Town Centre, Enfield Retail Park and Chingford Mount, Waltham Forest, Walthamstow, Brixton and Oxford Circus that night is being investigated under the protest and riots of the night before in Tottenham. The Metropolitan police had increased police numbers and help from Kent, Surrey and Thames Valley police on the night.
Returning home on Monday to a flatmate thankful for my safety and with a handful of interviews that didn’t make the local or national news I decided to leave it there.
I’m not Mark Stone at Sky News. This is: