After consecutive nights of rioting in London, large groups of vigilantes were seen patrolling the London boroughs of Enfield, Eltham and Southall on Tuesday night.
Though such groups have been condemned by the police as counter-productive, it seems that these residents felt the police had already failed the test of protecting them from looters, vandals and rioters. Despite a huge increase in the numbers of police on the streets last night, they had decided to take matters into their own hands.
As many as 200 men were seen roaming the streets in Enfield and Eltham. Members of the English Defence League, the far right group, were said to be heavily involved. The English Defence League claims around half of the Enfield vigilantes were its members. Stephen Lennon, leader of the group, said: 'We're going to stop the riots - police obviously can't handle it.' Many of the other men were said to be Millwall fans. The football club plays in nearby Lewisham, which was the scene of violent disorder earlier this week.
In Southall, West London, local men turned out to guard a Sikh temple. Some were armed with swords, others were carrying hockey sticks. More then 700 men, some in their 80s, took to the streets to protect their homes and businesses, after almost 100 rioters had tried to attack the area earlier on Tuesday. With few police around, elders at London's largest Sikh temple in Havelock Road resorted to telephoning male worshippers for help.
The police have roundly condemned the role of such community groups. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Kavanagh, from the Metropolitan Police said: "What I don't need is these so-called vigilantes, who appeared to have been drinking too much and taking policing resources away from what they should have been doing - which is preventing the looting."
Others have seen this street patrolling as an excuse for the EDL to capitalise on disorder and as an unwelcome distraction from the attempt to calm the tense atmosphere in these London boroughs. However, Patrick Hayes who was reporting for Spiked Online, joined an anti-riot vigilante group in Enfield on Tuesday night and was quick to defend them:
'It is testament to today's snooty view of white working-class communities that many assume that any gathering of a few hundred white blokes must be a racist pogrom-in-the-making. Used to consensual rather than conflictual policing, even large numbers of officers on the streets have proved ineffectual when it comes to preventing or offsetting nihilistic behaviour'.
One of the vigilante patrollers, Nick Davison, summed up the mood of many when he told Sky News:
'We've had enough of the police just standing there, basically scratching their arses while people are looting and ruining the whole area. Everybody here pays tax and we've all had enough of it. We're sickened by the police doing absolutely nothing.'