Alanah Eriksen is the New Zealand Herald's deputy chief of staff

Looters swarmed like army of ants

Alanah Eriksen, a New Zealand journalist who lives in Brixton, shares her experience on the riots.

They scuttled in and out of shops like an army of ants, carrying flat-screen TVs as they went. They wore hoods and masks, smashed windows and started fires.

This display of violence by opportunistic rioters was happening a few hundred metres from my home in Brixton, South London.

The mob of about 200 had jumped on the back of the Tottenham protests 17km away, using it as an excuse to rob shopowners.

I doubt many would have been able to tell you who Mark Duggan was or why the protests started.

I was working in central London on Sunday when unconfirmed reports started flooding in that the riots had spread to the south.

I was fielding calls in the newsroom from residents scared for their lives.

When I finished at 3am, the full extent of the violence in the neighbourhood was still not clear.

I didn't then know the high street was closed, that Foot Locker had been set alight and that the electronics chainstore Currys, and car and bike shop Halfords, had been stripped.

As I drove down Brixton Rd about 3.30am, several police vans whizzed past and when I reached the high street, more than 15 police officers carrying riot shields and batons emerged from behind police tape.

The road and others around it were shut off, with police vehicles blocking entry and armed officers signalling for motorists to turn around.

But I could still make out the destruction. Glass, what appeared to be bits of garage doors and other debris were strewn across the road.

The three-minute journey home from the top of the high street took an hour as I ran into more roadblocks and struggled to find a new way.

* Alanah Eriksen is a former Herald reporter.

- NZ Herald

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