Take a look at this: #riotwombles. Not exactly a phrase you would normally associate with immediate action in the face of criminal activity, is it?

Perhaps the police, or the army, might be a more apt word.

And most people would expect the police force to combat riots but, crippled under the strain of more and more outbreaks, efforts to clean the streets have been left in the hands of members of the public aided by social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Celebrities such as Simon Pegg have backed the virtual movement, which aims to remove the debris and restore some kind of normality back into a shattered city.

The website riotcleanup.co.uk explains that it is “not about the riots. [It] is about the clean up – Londoners who care, coming together to engender a sense of community”.

So through social networking sites and a collective online clean-up operation, can we expect some kind of organised response?

Well… coupled with eventual action from the police, whereby up to 16,000 officers have been deployed in the streets, we can only hope that the growing online movement will act alongside authority to put an end to – or at least contain – this mindless storm of barbarity in the city.

In fact, a senior officer, talking to The Guardian has explained that police will use plastic bullets in the face of more violence tonight “if necessary”. However, he went on to say that “we are not going to throw away 180 years of policing with communities quickly. The repercussion and change to the way we police if we take the decision to use them will be long-lasting”.

So, as the police force are agonising over the nature of their politically correct use of force, the Internet may become part of the answer.

And this kind of opportunistic theft cannot, and should not, be tolerated on any scale.

So in containing this “excuse to loot”, as one onlooker said, we can only hope that some kind of collective response will be effective at stopping the otherwise inevitable: the continuing brutality which has already endangered and taken lives.


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