LONDON — Thousands of extra police officers flooded into London on Wednesday in a bid to end Britain’s worst rioting in a generation. An eerie calm prevailed in the capital, but unrest spread across England on a fourth night of violence driven by diverse and brazen crowds of young people.
enes of ransacked stores, torched cars and blackened buildings frightened and outraged Britons just a year before their country is to host the summer Olympic Games, bringing demands for a tougher response from law enforcement. Police across the country have made more than 1,100 arrests since the violence broke out over the weekend.
In London, where armored vehicles and convoys of police vans patrolled the streets, authorities said there would be 16,000 officers on duty, almost triple the number present Monday. They said a large presence would remain in the city through the next 24 hours at least.
The show of force seems to have worked there. “Without wishing to speak too soon it’s been reasonably quiet for us so far tonight,” London’s Fire Brigade said in a message posted to Twitter earlier in the evening. “Let’s hope it stays that way.”
But outside the capital, chaos was spreading.
In the northwestern city of Manchester, hundreds of youths — some looking as young as 10 — rampaged through the city center, hurling bottles and stones at police and vandalizing stores.
Britain’s riots began Saturday when an initially peaceful protest over a police shooting in London’s Tottenham neighborhood turned violent. That clash has morphed into a general lawlessness in London and several other cities that police have struggled to halt.
While the rioters have run off with sneakers, bikes, electronics and leather goods, they also have torched stores apparently just for the fun of seeing something burn. They were left virtually unchallenged in several neighborhoods, and when police did arrive they often were able to flee quickly and regroup.
With police struggling to control the violence, some residents stood guard to protect their neighborhoods. Outside a Sikh temple in Southall, west London, residents stood guard and vowed to defend their place of worship if mobs of young rioters appeared.
Another group marched through Enfield, in north London, aiming to deter looters.
In a potentially troublesome development, one far-right group said that about 1,000 of its members around the country were taking to the streets to deter rioters.
“We’re going to stop the riots police obviously can’t handle it,” Stephen Lennon, leader of the far-right English Defense League, told The Associated Press. He warned that he couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be violent clashes with rioting youths.
Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to the bombing and massacre that killed 77 people in Norway last month, has cited the EDL as an inspiration.