As the authorities struggled to explain how they would prevent more trouble and residents expressed anger at the destruction, BlackBerry emerged as the looters' message system of choice.
A damaged police vehicle is pictured in Enfield, north London, following a second night of disturbances in London, on August 8, 2011.
Police chiefs and political leaders have been struggling to account for a second night of violence and looting in London, much of which appeared to have been organised.
Politicians were facing criticism for being slow to respond, with the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, the home secretary and the London mayor all on holiday at the weekend.
A second night of violence on Sunday was far more widespread and sporadic than Saturday, with looting and vandalism reported in Enfield and Walthamstow in north-east London, Islington in north London, Brixton in the south, and Oxford Circus in central London.
Far from the initial spark of violence in Tottenham, trouble spread to Brixton in south London – the scene of seminal riots in 1981 but today a much calmer, more diverse neighbourhood with an influx of home-owning middle classes priced out of more fashionable areas nearby.
An earlier festival had passed off without incident. But late in the evening, according to Guardian reporter Matthew Taylor, the mood altered.
The situation and atmosphere changed very quickly and there were reports from some witnesses that the group had arrived together on buses and in cars, but I can not confirm this.
Police appeared unprepared for the clashes and over the next three hours shops along the High Street were smashed and looted.
Men, women and teenagers helped themselves to goods and cash from H&M, Vodafone, McDonalds and T-Mobile, while a major fire took hold in Footlocker.
People were carrying armfuls of clothes and shoes and passing them to friends in cars, carrying them away balanced precariously on the back of scooters or on foot. Although the police had gathered in a nearby side street they did not intervene for more than an hour.
Debris outside a Foot Locker store in Brixton after it was broken into by looters.
The Metropolitan police, already struggling under criticism over the phone-hacking scandal that cost the job of its chief officer, appeared on the back foot, lacking the weight of numbers to deal adequately with a disparate and unpredictable threat.
The Met said Twitter users could be prosecuted for incitement to violence. Tim Godwin, the acting chief constable, described the looting as "opportunistic" and promised a "robust" response.
We will make sure that the stuff that we have seen come off the back of this – which is pure criminality, opportunistic criminality – is dealt with firmly and robustly.
But while the police promised to track down those who it believed had incited the violence on Twitter, it emerged that much of the planning took place in the relatively private world of the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service. The Guardian's Paul Lewis got hold of the message that urged people to Oxford Circus.
This is the full text of the message:
Everyone from all sides of London meet up at the heart of London (central) OXFORD CIRCUS!!, Bare SHOPS are gonna get smashed up so come get some (free stuff!!!) fuck the feds we will send them back with OUR riot! >:O
Dead the ends and colour war for now so
if you see a brother... SALUT!
if you see a fed... SHOOT!
We need more MAN then feds so Everyone run wild, all of london and others are invited! Pure terror and havoc & Free stuff....just smash shop windows and cart out da stuff u want! Oxford Circus!!!!! 9pm, we don't need pussyhole feds to run the streets and put our brothers in jail so tool up,
its a free world so have fun running wild shopping;)
Oxford Circus 9pm if u see a fed stopping a brother JUMP IN!!! EVERYONE JUMP IN niggers will be lurking about, all blacked out we strike at 9:15pm-9:30pm, make sure ur there see you there. REMEMBA DA LOCATION!!! OXFORD CIRCUS!!!
MUST REBROADCAST TO ALL CONTACTS!!!"
The Guardian's media and technology correspondent, Josh Halliday, explained the favour of BlackBerry Messenger.
Using BlackBerry handsets – the smartphone of choice for the majority (37%) of British teens, according to last week's Ofcom study – BBM allows users to send one-to-many messages to their network of contacts, who are connected by "BBM PINs".
And unlike Twitter or Facebook, many BBM messages are untraceable by the authorities (which is why, in large part, BBM is so favoured by Emirati teens to spread illicit gossip about officialdom).
Perhaps fearful of the negative impact of being associated with the "Blackberry Riots", the smartphone company felt compelled to issue a (Twitter) statement saying it was assisting the police with their inquiries.
Meanwhile, as businesses and residents began the clear-up, people caught up in the violence expressed their anger and frustration. David Lawrence, who works with youth organisations in north London, said in a blog post for Comment is Free that he was "embarassed" to live in Tottenham.
I know people who have lost everything they ever owned because their homes were burned down over the weekend. I know people who have worked hard to create successful businesses and now have nothing to show for it. I know people who should be working today, but can't because their workplace no longer exists.
Among the most dramatic images to emerge from Saturday night's rioting was the burnt-out shell of the Carpet Right store in Tottenham.
In Tottenham, firefighters survey the burnt out shell of a carpet showroom on Tottenham High Road.
The discount chain was founded by the Tory peer Lord Harris of Peckham in 1988. He has been on the BBC's World at One programme on Radio 4, and promised to help the "working class" people whose homes above his store had been destroyed by the fire.
My real sympathies are with all those people in the flats above me who are working class – and I don't mean that rudely – that have got nothing. They have only got the clothes they are in. The only thing I can say is that I'm pleased they all got out safely, because they could all have been killed.
I want to try to help them. I have asked my PR company to find out their names and see if we can get in touch with them, meet them and see if I can help in any way – give them money, or help them with clothes. I feel very, very sorry for them.
The catalyst for the weekend rioting was the shooting of a Tottenham man, Mark Duggan, on Thursday night. The investigation is being conducted by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which responded to suggestions that it hasn't had enough contact with Duggan's family. The language appeared critical of the Met.
In the statement, the IPCC commissioner who is overseeing the independent investigation into Mark Duggan's death, Rachel Cerfontyne, said:
I am aware of various media reports suggesting that we have not had adequate contact with Mr Duggan's family since his death. Following my meeting with the family yesterday (Sunday) I am very clear that their concerns were not about lack of contact or support from the IPCC. Their concerns were about lack of contact from the police in delivering news of his death to Mark's parents.
It is never the responsibility of the IPCC to deliver a message regarding someone's death and I have told Mr Duggan's family that I would be addressing this issue with the Met and that, if necessary, this would become part of our investigation.
The voice of police officers involved in holding the line during these disturbances is rarely heard. But now, thanks to the ease with which anyone can publish their own accounts, we learn a little more about the thinking of rank-and-file officers.
A Twitter user going by the pseudonym of InspectorWinter, who describes himself as a "law enforcement officer" in his mid 30s, has written up a detailed blog post of his experiences policing the riots in north London last night.
Often it's hard to verify these anonymous accounts, but this user's feed has thousands of entries dating back months and appears authoritative. In a long and thoughtful post he writes of trying to comfort a shop owner whose livelihood has gone up in flames:
I simply do not know what to say to him ... it's genuinely heartbreaking. I do something I find myself doing a lot over the next few hours, telling him I'm sorry and then giving him a manly hug with a pat on the back. Helmet back on and we're off somewhere else.
He goes on to talk of his frustration at not being able to prevent the lawlessness:
I have never experienced looting of this scale, the wholesale sacking of shops is taking place, we know it is taking place and there is nothing we can do about it, a couple of the more hardcore members of my team want to "blat round and stop it", we're outnumbered, we're encumbered by protective equipment and we're drained. If we go blundering into this kind of situation we'll do more harm than good.
And he wanted to stress that most police officers understand the frustrations of the community over the shooting in Tottenham on Thursday.
The traditional, stereotypical, image of a public order police officer is that of some knuckle dragging man mountain who's main skill in life is being able to knock a door down in one hit. As I survey the people around me, none of them fit that. They're all reasonably intelligent, in the van there have been long discussions on what the cause of this is. We can understand the anger of the community over the shooting of Mark Duggan by armed police, we know that they want answers.
But we also know that at times the investigative process is painfully slow, waiting for forensics to come back can take a while, the laborious process of locating witness and then taking statements, tracking down CCTV and seizing copies of it, then reviewing it. All of these things are hard enough for us, let alone the IPCC, and I have very little idea of the size of their investigative teams, but I can't imagine they are that large
Inevitably, crisis breeds creativity. This time-lapse video, uploaded to YouTube, shows in dramatic fashion how the fires spread in Tottenham on Saturday night and into Sunday morning.
Meanwhile the family of the man whose death is at the centre of the worst riots in London since the 1980s believe the media has "twisted" the truth about him. The Guardian's Patrick Barkham found them in their garden, discussing the traumatic events of the past five days. Bouquets have been laid outside.
Unsurprisingly they don't want to speak to the media, who they blame for 'twisting the truth' and telling 'all these lies' about Mark. 'He was a good man. He was a family man,' insists one relative.
Some members of the family want to try to put out a positive message but others are grieving and angered by the coverage in some tabloids. So it is time to leave them in peace. Whether Tottenham will have a peaceful night tonight remains to be seen. A police helicopter is hovering over the high road, where some residents are still without electricity after the riots on Saturday night.