Can cops stop royal wedding trouble?

March 30, 2011

OUKTP-UK-BRITAIN-RIOT-CUNNINGWill Prince William and Kate Middleton’s big day be overshadowed by a minority of protesters smashing up central London and attacking police?

That’s the fear of ministers and senior officers after a few hundred anarchists broke off from a mass march by unions through central London at the weekend and smashed the front of shops, banks, and the exclusive Ritz hotel among others.

Instead of pictures of the happy couple waving to crowds as they ride in a carriage from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, the worry is hundreds of millions of global TV viewers will instead be treated to images of black-clad protesters scuffling with officers.

It wouldn’t be the first time that those angry with the government’s public spending cuts and tax rises have taken out their anger on the royal family.

During rioting last December, the limo carrying William’s father Prince Charles and his wife Camilla was attacked, and Camilla reportedly poked with a stick through an open window.

So concerned are the government that Home Secretary Theresa May has asked police, already faced with the major headache that Islamist militants might target the event, if they need new powers to prevent any trouble erupting.

But is there really much the police can do if they are faced with some people determined to cause problems without resorting to an over-the-top strategy that could do more harm than good?

Recent violent protests have shown only a small number of people, a few hundred or so, are needed to create havoc, whilst it doesn’t require any great pre-planning to find a weapon or missile capable of breaking shop windows.

One idea is for police to step up their use of stop and search. However, searching all of the tens of thousands of Londoners, royal fans and tourists on the day would appear an impossible and somewhat draconian operation.

The government is also suggesting a ban on known trouble-makers being allowed to attend along with a ban on masks and balaclavas.

But with so many visitors to the capital — something Prime Minister David Cameron has trumpeted as a major boost to the country’s economy and tourism business — the last thing the government will want is innocent people being caught up in a largescale and possible frightening policing operation.

It would appear that police chiefs could be damned either way.

And if they didn’t have enough to worry about, one radical Muslim organisation has promised to make the day a “nightmare” while the English Defence League, a right-wing anti-Islamist organisation whose own protests have been marred by violence, has promised its supporters will meet out its own justice to troublemakers.

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I was in London for a concert and an exhibition on Saturday. It was very easy to distinguish between the marchers, the German tourists who were avoiding them, the hen parties, the Tartan army — and the little knots of storm-troopers gathering in fours and fives in quiet back streets.

I would say that, so long as the police are mobile during the morning, and not just sitting around waiting for the trouble to kick off, then a stop and search strategy which specifically targeted such groups might be quite effective.

Posted by IanKemmish | Report as abusive