Smashed storefront
The Tuesday morning aftermath of rioters on London's Barnard Street. Image: Heather McKay/Flickr/CC BY

Much has been made of the role Twitter and other social networking sites have played in spreading the ongoing riots in London and other parts of England. But Twitter and Facebook are also taking an active role in the recovery efforts as hundreds of volunteers rally to clean up the streets.

Organizing as riots raged

The Twitter-organized cleanup effort began while the violence was still raging. From Croydon in the south of the city to Ealing in the west, hundreds of volunteers gathered on the riot-ravaged streets of London early Tuesday morning  armed with brooms and buckets. They have gathered to clean up the mess and to make a point to the world about themselves and their city.

As one Twitter-user posted:

“Last night I was angry and ashamed of violence in our city. This morning, #riotcleanup makes me proud to be a Londoner.”

Twitter feed is trending

The effort is being organized by artist Dan Thompson on his Twitter account, @riotcleanup. The feed attracted nearly 70,000 followers in one day and is currently trending in London. Thompson also moderates a Facebook page dedicated to the effort.

One of the volunteers, Jina Creighton, 23, who gathered with others outside a Camden subway station, said:

“After everything that happened last night, it’s good to see people can come together for something other than looting.”

The damage to the city will cost in the tens of millions of pounds, according to the Association of British Insurers.

Rage over a fatal shooting

The rioting began Saturday in Tottenham, a section of North London, when a  29-year-old man, Mark Duggan, was shot to death by police. A protest march of some 200 people devolved into violence, which escalated and spread to other parts of London. Waves of violence, vandalism and looting have rocked the city for days and been reported in other parts of England.

Role of social networks

Many cite Twitter and other social networks as being instrumental in spreading and fueling the violence. Rumors that BlackBerry Messenger will be shut down to cripple the rioter’s communication have abounded but have not materialized.


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