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Tue Sep 02 18:40:43 SAST 2014

Prince Charles visits riot-hit London community

Sapa-AFP | 17 August, 2011 15:53
Police officers raid a property in Pimlico, London
Police officers raid a property in Pimlico, London August 12, 2011. Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron is under growing pressure to abandon plans to cut police funding, part of the government's austerity drive, after the worst looting and rioting in decades hit cities across England
Image by: POOL / REUTERS

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla met families left homeless by riots in Tottenham on Wednesday, breaking off their holiday to show solidarity with the deprived north London community scarred by violence.

"Welcome to Tottenham," said one smiling resident as the heir to the British throne arrived at the local leisure centre, which has been turned into an aid centre for those whose homes were burned down during violence on August 6.

Rioting broke out in the multi-ethnic neighbourhood following a protest against the police shooting of a local man, Mark Duggan, two days earlier.

The rioting and arson attacks destroyed many shops and flats on the main road and left up to 200 people homeless.

Over the next three days copycat violence spread, first to other parts of London and then to other major cities such as Manchester and Birmingham, in the worst civil unrest seen in England for decades.

Charles and Camilla broke off their summer holiday in Scotland to make the unannounced visit, a day after Prime Minister David Cameron toured the area.

"You wouldn't expect them to care, so it's really nice," said one 20-year-old woman who watched the royal couple arrive for a meeting with police, fire and ambulance crews as well as families affected by the riots.

"This is a very deprived area. It's taken something as bad as the riots to get those people in the area. On one hand it's a bit upsetting, because they should come anyway. But it shows that we're not just a dot on the map."

Haley Jackson, a 23-year-old dance instructor, managed to shake hands with the prince as she and some friends delivered clothes, shoes and toiletries to the leisure centre to give to the newly homeless.

She said the royal visit was important, telling AFP: "It's not going to bring back their houses and everything they've lost, but it is recognition."

Tottenham would recover from the rioting, she said. "It's going to look like a ghost town for a very long time. But if the community stick together it will get dealt with."

Youth worker Dymond Allen, 33, also greeted Charles as he arrived, and told AFP afterwards: "I think it's showing that there is some type of empathy there.

"But realistically I think the people want more change. They don't want to be sitting down talking, they want more action."

Flashing his gold tooth and proudly wearing a Jamaica T-shirt, he said he had a friendly conversation with the prince, but added: "I don't honestly believe that the royals are in touch with the everyday folk."

Allen said he and other youth workers had been out on the streets during the riots in Tottenham, trying to persuade young people to stay at home, but he blamed the police for the violence.

"The people are fed up of police brutality. If the police hadn't shot Mark on the high road in the way that they did, it wouldn't have happened," he said.

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Tue Sep 02 18:40:43 SAST 2014 ::