‘Ring of steel" for royal wedding

2011-04-11 09:31

The open-mouthed shock of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla when their Rolls-Royce came under attack from student demonstrators in London in December last year has had a lasting effect on Scotland Yard’s royal protection squad.

The same maroon-coloured luxury car, now being repaired, is to carry Kate Middleton, the royal bride, to Westminster Abbey on April 29 for her marriage to Prince William – and the police are not leaving anything to chance.

Their attention has been further heightened by an anarchist rampage against “luxury symbols”, including the Ritz Hotel, banks and the “royal” Fortnum & Mason department store, during a protest march against government cuts on March 26.

Police, promptly accused of having been ill-prepared for the running battles with hardcore anarchists along Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square, believe that a number of groups will be “deliberately targeting” the royal wedding.

They have promised to throw a “ring of steel” along the route that will take the newly-weds to and from Westminster Abbey for their big day, watched by millions and attended by dignitaries from around the world.

“I’m dealing with a security operation of a city under terrorist threat. We will be putting in sterile zones, using counter-terrorism powers, closing roads, and using stop and search powers,” said Metropolitan Police Commander Bob Broadhurst, the man in charge of the operation.

“We are looking specifically at the royal wedding and what we can to do prevent disorder and violence creeping in to that event. We always look at our powers to try to quell violence before it happens,” Broadhurst said in a BBC interview.

Some 1 900 guests, including many heads of state, royalty from around the world and numerous VIPs, are expected to attend the royal wedding at Westminster Abbey.

There will also be thousands of foreign journalists in town to cover the event.

Police were aware of the threat of terrorism targeting the many VIPs -known in police jargon as “principals” – who would be attending the wedding, said Broadhurst.

“You are looking at a different type of threat – the threat to the wedding is a threat to principals, it is a threat to democracy,” he explained.

In what will be one of the most expensive and high-profile security operations seen in London, snipers will be positioned on rooftops and undercover officers will mingle among the crowds.

Armed police trained to deal with terrorist attacks in the style of al-Qaeda, a possible onslaught by dissident Irish republican groups, or acts by anarchists or lone stalkers have all been factored into the security calculations, Scotland Yard said.

But high-level security will have to be balanced against the wish of tens of thousands of onlookers who want to enjoy the day as large parts of central London come to a standstill.

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