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Middle class residents of London have turned out to clean up their streets after nights of rioting

London residents wait to be allowed through a police cordon to help council workers with the clean up after the rioting that took place outside Clapham Junction railway station. Source: AP
ARMED with brooms, brushes and rubber gloves, London's defiant middle classes have turned out in force to reclaim the streets of their city after its worst night of violence for decades.

They responded in their hundreds to calls on Facebook and Twitter, as well as radio and TV, to help to clear up the damage caused by looting, arson and violence by mobs on Monday night.

The biggest "broom army" assembled in Clapham Junction, where more than 500 bankers, teachers, estate agents and students gathered to help their community to get back on its feet.

James Freeman, a software consultant, said: "There was a terrible feeling of helplessness last night. More of us have turned up today to clean up than turned up last night to loot. We need to show people that this is what being a Londoner is all about."

Richard Stopford, a student from nearby Pimlico, said: "I saw on Twitter that stuff was happening down here so I came to see if I could help. We are all here to show our defiance and do what we can to help clean up. This is the middle classes fighting back."

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At first the efforts of the "broom army" were thwarted. Police said that they needed to protect the evidence and council officials insisted that only their staff should be allowed near the debris. But the volunteers were reluctant to leave and the local MP, Jane Ellison, and several councillors intervened to devise a plan for them to work alongside council staff.

After a five-hour wait, during which Sainsbury's fed the crowd with Danish pastries, police had secured the site. In groups of 50, residents and council workers swept away broken glass, discarded electrical items, TVs, mobile phones and empty boxes.

James Walker, 31, a member of the Royal Navy who helped to organise the sweep, said he did not want politicians to claim credit for what was a spontaneous effort by locals: "This may be the Big Society in action, but there is a difference. We are totally apolitical and I hope everyone recognises that."

Among the crowds was the musician Sam Duckworth, 25, a well known social activist on Twitter who records as Get Cape Wear Cape Fly. In the early hours of yesterday he set up the @RiotCleanup Twitter page, which by yesterday afternoon had amassed almost 80,000 followers.

"People have come from all over London," he said. "It's communities standing together and standing tall and taking a stand, saying that we're not going to let things lie like this."

Also volunteering was Ricky Wilson, of the Kaiser Chiefs, whose 2004 song I Predict a Riot has gained a new following among social networking users in recent days. He later tweeted: "Home now after a long day on the brooms. If I need to, I'll do it again tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that."

In Hackney, more than 100 residents joined a clean-up operation. Liz Veitch, 66, said: "The biggest defence I've got is a pair of rubber gloves." Camden and Chalk Farm were also swept clean by early-morning volunteers.

In Liverpool, Charles Jupiter, 21, a barman, set up a Facebook page, "Liverpool Clean Up", as the riots erupted in Toxteth. A local Asda donated brushes, the Co-op shop gave bin bags and two local cafes provided free tea and coffee to 100 volunteers. Mr Jupiter said: "People were posting, 'I'm embarrassed to be English' or 'I'm embarrassed to be from London or Liverpool'. I re-posted and said, 'I am not'. That's why I'm out here to help clean up."

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