Tough police tactics for London carnival

AP News
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Posted: Aug 29, 2011 4:14 PM
Tough police tactics for London carnival

It took extra police and earlier closing times, but London's Notting Hill Carnival, Europe's largest street festival, appeared to give the city what it had hoped for Monday: a chance to regroup and celebrate in the wake of the riots that had occurred in the capital earlier this month and swept across England.

The two-day carnival, launched in 1964, celebrates Caribbean culture and attracts about 1 million people with its mix of flamboyant dancers, colorful costumes, rousing steel bands and booming outdoor sound systems.

British police flooded the prosperous west London neighborhood of Notting Hill with extra officers and authorized the use of tough search powers on Sunday and Monday. Sound stages pumping out music also turned off at around 7 p.m., earlier than usual, so the carnival could end before dark.

London's Metropolitan Police said it believed the earlier finish "had a positive effect" on ensuring the event was "very peaceful."

Police said they arrested 132 people on Monday and 82 on Sunday _ lower than the 270 people detained a year earlier during the two-day event.

But as night fell Monday, police remained on the streets to help usher the merrymakers away from the parade route and disperse small groups that gathered. Overall, the scene appeared largely calm, but police reported one stabbing and a few dozen arrests.

Police said a man was found with stab wounds in the carnival area and hospitalized in "serious condition," with three men arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm.

Overall, the London Ambulance Service said it treated 241 carnival goers Monday and 253 people on Sunday for various ailments. Last year, 706 people received medical treatment.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who attended the carnival, had favored holding the event, despite the deadly violence, looting and arson that had hit the capital earlier this month. He predicted the festivities could help bring Londoners back together.

The city's Metropolitan Police said it invoked extensive search powers that allowed officers to stop people _ and order them to remove hoods, masks or other disguises _ if officers suspected there was a possibility of serious violence in a specific neighborhood.

Police said about 6,500 officers were out on the streets on Monday _ more than the number who were deployed on duty during April's royal wedding.

Since the four nights of rioting that hit London, Manchester, Birmingham and other English cities in early August, about 3,000 people have been arrested on suspicion of crimes during that mayhem, and many charged and jailed.

That rioting, sparked by a fatal police shooting in north London's Tottenham area on Aug. 4, was the worst civil disturbance to hit Britain since the 1980s, and left a trail of looted stores, torched cars and burned-out buildings. Five people died, including three men hit by a car as they protected stores from looters in Birmingham.

Still, Johnson wanted the Notting Hill Carnival to be held, despite the risks and the expense of the security.

"It's right that the carnival goes ahead so we can show the world that the overwhelming majority of London's people are decent, law-abiding citizens who respect the law, love their city and want to celebrate our vibrant, diverse and historical culture," he said.

"Through effective stop-and-search, we believe we have deterred and prevented trouble from taking place," Police Commander Steve Rodhouse said Sunday.