Rioting in London has forced a group of people into a local theater, where they are barricading themselves against the violence outside.

The unrest in the British capital has spread from Tottenham, where it started over the weekend, to a number of other neighborhoods, including Hackney in East London. It is in Hackney where people are now hiding in the 110-year old Empire Theater, witnesses say.

"We are stuck inside," one of the trapped people, who chose to remain anonymous, told Reuters over the phone.

"We don't want to be near the windows. They seem to be targeting shops at the moment. It's very scary."

"We are in the back of the building, staying away from the front. We have barricaded the doors and put chains on the doors."

The violence started on Sunday, when a peaceful demonstration in the north London neighborhood of Tottenham turned sour. Mounted officers and riot police responded to the unrest by charging protesters, possibly escalating the violence.

Since then, rioting has been reported in several other districts, including Hackney, Peckham and Lewisham, both in south London. The group inside the theater is fearful for good reason, as protesters have been destroying property across the city, with some people setting fire to buildings and cars. Additionally, demonstrators and hooded youths threw firebombs at police officers and torched property.

In Tottenham, store windows were smashed, and there was widespread looting.

"The violence we've seen, the looting we've seen, the thuggery we've seen, this is sheer criminality ... These people will be brought to justice. They will be made to face the consequences of their actions," said Home Secretary Theresa May.

A total of 215 people have been arrested so far and 27 charged. Police reported at least 26 officers injured.

The neighborhoods most affected by the turmoil are traditionally low-income, multi-ethnic areas. The riots were spurred when police shot and killed Mark Duggan in Tottenham. Duggan was a suspected drug dealer and gang member, although few details have emerged since his death.

Metro police, as well as a private agency, are investigating the riots and the shooting.