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Members of the public sweep the streets in Clapham Junction, in south London, on August 9, 2011, of debris following a third night of unrest in London. (PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the public sweep the streets in Clapham Junction, in south London, on August 9, 2011, of debris following a third night of unrest in London. (PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Twitter-organized Britons clean up after London riots Add to ...

They came to restore their city's good name, armed with brooms.

The morning after devastating riots swept across London, hundreds of people gathered in Twitter-organized crews to sweep up broken glass, clean vandalized buildings and show the world — and themselves — that their city is about more than mindless destruction.

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“After everything that happened last night, it's good to see people can come together for something other than looting,” said Jina Creighton, 23, gathering with dozens of others outside the subway station in the Camden area of London. Overnight rioters looted a bicycle shop, a convenience store, a sports gear shop and a mobile phone retailer in the popular nightlife area, and smashed the windows of bars and clubs.

Hundreds more volunteers gathered in other riot-ravaged areas of London, from Croydon in the south of the city to Ealing in the west, by a campaign started on Twitter while the violence was still raging overnight.

The Association of British Insurers said the cost of repairing the damage would be tens of millions of pounds.

The volunteer cleanup was spontaneous, loosely organized and enthusiastic. Participants ranged from students to retirees. Many had come equipped with brooms and rubber gloves.

Ms. Creighton said she had answered a question on Twitter about the best place to meet in Camden and found herself appointed the local organizer.

Alex May, a 32-year-old software engineer, said he'd read about the cleanup on Twitter, bought a broom and walked down to join in.

“The police are stretched to the limit, so it's down to them doing what they can and the people helping out,” he said.

“But the problem is that the riots happened in the first place. It's something that has to be dealt with in the longer term.”

Police are examining social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook amid claims rioters used them to help organize disturbances. But the sites have also been used to clear up the damage.

In Liverpool, which also saw rioting Monday, 21-year-old bartender Charles Jupiter set up a “Liverpool Clean Up” Facebook page that brought about 100 volunteers onto the streets Tuesday morning.

“I thought, ‘Not in my city',” Jupiter said. “People were posting, ‘I'm embarrassed to be English, I'm embarrassed to be from London or Liverpool.’

“I reposted and said, ‘I'm not. That's why I'm going out there to help clean up.“’

By the time the volunteers gathered in Camden, most of the shattered glass had been swept up, the damaged windows patched. A group headed by subway for the worse-hit Clapham area across town.

If violence strikes again, they said, they would do it again on Wednesday.

 

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