Pat Doherty of Gaoth Dobhair, a longtime resident of London, believed Tuesday that the worst of the riots were over, but the shopkeepers in his Shepherd’s Bush neighbourhood were not convinced.
“By six o’clock they had the shutters down,” he said. “Even the takeaways were closed at that time and that was the first time I’d seen that in 15-20 years here.” Following three days of rioting and looting in other parts of the city, many shopkeepers had been moving stock out of their premises on Tuesday, in case the violence spread.
Pat’s west London neighbourhood lies between Holland Park and Acton and a couple of miles from Ealing, where rioters and looters stormed the streets on Monday night. But Pat said he believed the 16,000 police officers that were reported to be on the streets of London on Tuesday night would put a stop to the worst of the violence.
“But then who’s to say that it won’t break out a mile away from where the police are positioned?” he said.
Originally from Strand Road, Middletown, Magheragallon, Pat originally came to London in 1988 and though he went travelling and spent a few years working abroad, he has largely made his home in London since then.
“I’ve never seen it kick off like that,” he said. After returning home from work on Tuesday, Pat saw three police cars and four large vans full of police, sirens blaring, heading down the Oxbridge Road in the direction of Shepherd’s Bush Green.
He believed that the initial protest against the police shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan, who was found to be unarmed when he was killed, had grown into a different event: “Any excuse we might be able to get a few things out of that shop,” he said.
Pat works in construction – plumbing and pipefitting – in the tony Knightsbridge section of London.
“It’s too posh there for riots,” Pat said. He suspected that the area that was home to such well-known brands as Harrod’s and Harvey Nichols “will get properly protected”. But areas already hit by rioting, such as Tottenham, Hackney and Ealing, “are obviously not as far up the social ladder,” he said.
Pat admitted that if he found himself in the centre of a riot he might be more concerned for his safety. But as of Tuesday, he said, “I’m like anybody else watching it off the TV.”
Still, local business owners were taking no chances. Pat was speaking to the owner of a deli/off-license/newsagent shop across the street. The shopkeeper had already moved much of his stock to a space around the back, in case looters entered the premises. He had been standing outside of his business for most of the day, keeping an eye on the road.
“He’s still out there at the moment,” Pat said at about 8 pm on Tuesday. The shutters on the business were already being lowered. “He’s usually open until 11 but it looks like he’s closing any minute.” A fried chicken takeaway and a pizza shop, two other late-night businesses on the street, had already closed up, he said.
Pat had another observation regarding the police response to the three days of rioting that rocked London.
“I know for a fact if it had been Northern Ireland, they would have rubber bullets out,” he said.