Security teams gear up for UK royal wedding

AP News
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Posted: Apr 19, 2011 2:08 PM
Security teams gear up for UK royal wedding

British police have rejected a request by a small band of radical Islamists to stage a protest outside Prince William and Kate Middleton's royal wedding venue on April 29, Scotland Yard said Tuesday.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens said Muslims Against Crusades would not be allowed to demonstrate outside Westminster Abbey and "ongoing discussions" were underway as to whether the group would be allowed to hold a protest nearby.

Police said that they are also negotiating with the far-right English Defense League who have said they plan to hold a shadow protest if the Muslim group's application was successful.

"We are in negotiation with two protest groups that are expressing a wish to protest on the day in question," Owens said. "I have to say we are mindful that this is essentially a security operation and may not be compatible to the wishes of protesters. We will take a decision on that shortly."

Muslims Against Crusades is a small group, but gained widespread attention in Britain last year when members burnt commemorative poppies near a remembrance ceremony in west London for Britain's war dead.

Its website is emblazoned with the slogan "Muslims to disrupt Royal Wedding" next to a clock which counts down to the wedding of what it terms "Enemies to Allah and His Messenger."

The English Defense League says it is a non-racist group set up to oppose the spread of militant Islam. But at previous demonstrations its members have clashed with police, chanted anti-Muslim slogans and made Nazi salutes.

Police on Tuesday released some details of their huge security operation for the wedding, saying 5,000 uniformed and undercover officers would be assigned to the wedding.

The wedding will be attended by a large collection of royals, politicians and VIPs including Queen Elizabeth II and about 50 other heads of state. That poses a severe security challenge, especially since the royal entourage will use a parade route publicly announced several months ahead of time.

Police expect huge crowds to throng the parade route from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, where the newlyweds will appear on a balcony for the traditional post-wedding kiss.

Police are prepared to counter possible threats from criminals, international terrorists, anarchists and Irish dissidents. Britain's terrorist threat level stands at "severe," the second-highest level on the government's five-point scale.

Owens said the security picture was changing "on a daily basis."

In addition to standard policing, more than 80 VIPs will require personal protection, she said.

"Our most useful tactic on the day will be having a look around and acting quickly, robustly and decisively," Owens said

Owens said that 60 people charged with committing public order offenses had been banned from the City of Westminster in central London on the day as part of their bail conditions.

She said police are not planning to use the stop and search powers allowed under anti-terrorism laws because officers haven't received intelligence to suggest those powers are needed.

"We will decide what powers we will use on the basis of intelligence as it gathers," she added.

Policing the event is expected to cost millions and officers will receive overtime for working on a public holiday.

As part of preparations, special security teams are checking public areas along the parade route, near Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, for explosives that might have been hidden in drains, lampposts, traffic lights and other possible hiding places.

The goal of the checks, expected to continue until the big event is concluded, is to make the route the royal couple will use as secure as possible.

Scotland Yard also plans to identify a small number of individuals thought to have an unhealthy obsession with the royal family and conduct surveillance to make sure they don't cause trouble on the wedding day.

Police have said unstable individuals may pose a more severe threat than international terrorists, but they say they are confident they can handle the crush of onlookers expected that day.

Fewer officers will be deployed for William and Middleton's nuptials than for Prince Charles' wedding to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 because the route they traveled on to get married was longer.