Friday, 20 March 2009
THOUSANDS of riot police are to tackle G20 protesters who plan to use giant sand pits to bring London to a standstill.
Up to 3,000 officers will be on duty for the two days of next month's summit of world leaders. They are preparing to face an alliance of radical protest groups who they believe are plotting to use trucks to dump huge quantities of sand in the streets.
Senior police sources say the protesters plan to bring children to play in the giant sand pits, making it impossible for officers to use force to remove them.
The demonstrations, centred on the City, could be on a scale not seen since the height of the May Day protests of the mid-Nineties. At the same time Scotland Yard is involved in security for the leaders of 20 countries, including President Barack Obama, attending the summit on 2 and 3 April at the ExCel centre in Docklands.
The £10 million operation for the summit is the biggest yet mounted by Scotland Yard with Mr Obama arriving on 31 March.
Scotland Yard, which is co-ordinating an operation involving six forces, said it was expecting simultaneous protests at several locations across the capital.
Specialist police climbers will be on standby to tackle demonstrators planning to scale tall buildings. One group, Climate Camp, will set up in the City in an attempt to highlight the cost of global warming and what they claim is inaction by business on the issue. This group alone could attract up to 2,000 protesters, some of whom are meeting this weekend to discuss tactics.
Officers also fear a new development in which thousands of students could also take to the streets to join the protests.
One of the key organisers is believed to be a senior lecturer at the University of East London.
Police say they are seeing a re-emergence of protest groups such as Reclaim the Streets and The Wombles. They are forming alliances with new groups such as Fossil Fools and Financial Fools.
All police leave in London has been cancelled for the summit.
Officers will work more than 10,000 shifts to deal with the protests and other events, including a Mexican state visit in the days leading up to the summit. The Yard's entire firearms team is also being deployed, with armed undercover officers mingling in the crowds as well as snipers on rooftops.
Police say that during the summit they will be involved in the security of 40 diplomatic groups.
Exact details of how they will protect the world leaders as they travel in convoys from central London to the ExCel centre in Docklands are being kept a closely guarded secret. However it is understood there will be unprecedented security arrangements which will involve the closure of sections of the Docklands Light Railway to create a secure route for convoys.
A number of the foreign protection teams are also expected to be given Home Office permission to carry guns to protect their leaders.
Commander Bob Broadhurst, who is organising the Scotland Yard operation, said: "The number of protected delegations and the number of protests combining means that the scale of these events will be hugely challenging.
"We are deploying our best and most experienced officers to deal with these events and we are highly experienced in handling large-scale protests. We also have a very flexible plan to deal with this."
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