April 26, 2011 / 12:17 PM / 7 years ago

UK police vow tough action against wedding protests

LONDON (Reuters) - British police promised they would crack down “robustly” on anyone trying to disrupt Friday’s royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, appealing to the public to help them spot any troublemakers.

Some 5,000 police officers will be on duty in London on Friday to deal with potential threats ranging from international Islamist militants to anarchists and stalkers.

At a briefing on Tuesday, senior officers said they would not tolerate anyone who attempted to disrupt the event, which will be viewed by hundreds of thousands on the streets and by as many as 2 billion people on television worldwide.

“We intend to interact robustly, quickly and firmly if anybody engages in any criminal activity,” London Police’s Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens told the news conference.

“We really need you to be our eyes and our ears. If you see anybody in the crowd that is acting suspiciously please bring it to the earliest attention of our officers.”

Britain is currently at its second highest threat level of “severe,” meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely and security services have foiled a number of plots since the deadly July 7, 2005 attacks on London’s transport system.

Specialist royal protection teams and armed officers will be on duty as part of overt and covert plans, while Owens also confirmed that military personnel would be present as part of the security operation.

“We have no specific intelligence to suggest a threat to this event at this time,” said Commander Christine Jones.

Last week, police said they had banned the radical group, Muslims Against Crusades (MAC), whose members include some of Britain’s best-known Muslim extremists, from holding a protest outside Westminster Abbey where the ceremony is to be held.

Owens said they had offered to meet MAC to allow them to hold a demonstration elsewhere, but the group had failed to show up to a planned meeting. Another unnamed organization has also asked to hold a protest.

Senior officers have also spoken of their fears that anarchists, who took part in riots in the capital last month, might also target the occasion, although groups contacted by Reuters have indicated that they would not bother.

Last December, a car carrying William’s father Prince Charles and his wife Camilla was attacked during violent protests by students. More than 60 people arrested in recent demonstrations have been banned from London on the day.

“We would be wrong not to consider spontaneous protest as part of our contingency planning,” Jones said.

Police will seize any banners that the public on the day “would find offensive” Owens said, adding that the majority of well-wishers and tourists could be searched.

“It is likely that people will be searched in London on that day, but we’re not applying a blanket stop/search policy,” she said.

Even guests for the ceremony itself will not be exempt. The general congregation at the abbey will have to go through a security check at a location away from the main entrance of the church.

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