Riot police outside a bingo hall in Eltham, south London Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Press Association Images

'Vigilantes' protect areas of London as David Cameron feels pressure

Cities across England were relatively quiet last night, but police have warned of a possible “catastrophe” should riots break out again.

Updated 09.23am

LOCAL ‘VIGILANTES’ TOOK to the streets in several areas of London last night, claiming they would protect shops and businesses from rioters.

After four nights of rioting cities across England remained relatively calm, with 16,000 police officers on the streets and heavy rain deterring people from gathering. But police clashed with 200 men in Eltham, south-east London, who insisted they were protecting local businesses. The Telegraph reports that the men were drinking beer, throwing missiles at police and chanting in support of the right-wing English Defence League. They were dispersed after a baton charge.

Steve Kavanagh of the Metropolitan Police said: “What I don’t need is these so-called vigilantes, who appeared to have been drinking too much.”

Other London neighbourhoods have also seen protection groups emerge over the last week, with locals lining the streets. Police in London yesterday told residents they could use force, including a weapon, to defend themselves and their property, and issued guidelines on what people could do in self-defence, the Guardian reports.

The UK Parliament is due to debate the disturbances later today after being recalled by PM David Cameron. Cameron yesterday said the riots show problems in British society, reports the Daily Mail. “When we see children as young as 13, looting and laughing, when we see the disgusting sight of an injured young man with people pretending to help him while they are robbing him, it is clear that there are things that are badly wrong in our society,” he said.

Cameron is expected to be put under pressure under planned cuts of £2billion to police forces across the UK. The country’s Police Federation has warned there would be a “catastrophe” if such rioting broke out again after the cuts had taken effect, according to the Guardian. More than 1,300 people have been arrested since the rioting began, with courts repeatedly sitting through the night to process all those detained.

David Cameron has suggested that water cannons could be available for crowd control on 24 hours’ notice. It’s understood these would come from the PSNI. However, some police officers have dismissed the proposal as “spin”, according to the Independent.

In Birmingham, a candlelit vigil was held last night for three men killed in a hit and run while protecting a business. Police are treating the deaths as murder, the Telegraph reports.

Video: A community gathers to mourn three men killed in Birmingham

Read more: Full coverage of the riots across England >

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