Saturday 25 February 2017

Fears spark record police numbers at street festival

David Stringer in London

British police flooded part of London with extra officers and approved the use of tough search powers last night at the Notting Hill Carnival.

The extravaganza is Europe's largest street festival, but despite the upbeat mood there was no hiding the heavy security presence, prompted in the wake of riots across England earlier this month.

London's Metropolitan Police said it had invoked extensive search powers that allow officers to stop people -- and order them to remove hoods, masks or other disguises -- if they suspect there was a possibility of serious violence in a specific neighbourhood.

But despite the crackdown, one man was stabbed within the carnival area last night and was in a "serious" condition in hospital, police said.

He was found with stab wounds to the abdomen and hand in Ladbroke Grove after officers were alerted to an incident at around 6pm.

Three men have been arrested in the area on suspicion of GBH.

Police said they had arrested 72 people yesterday, in addition to the 82 people arrested on Sunday.

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

The number of arrests appeared to be lower than last year, when about 270 people were detained over the two days of the event.

Police said a record number of about 6,500 officers were out on the streets yesterday -- more than the number deployed for April's royal wedding.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said the carnival could help bring Londoners together after the recent unrest .

About 3,000 people have so far been arrested on suspicion of crimes, and many charged and jailed, over the four nights of rioting in London, Manchester, Birmingham and other English cities.

"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," Mr Johnson said.

Police Commander Steve Rodhouse said the first day of the carnival had passed without serious incident.

Trouble

"Through effective stop and search, we believe we have deterred and prevented trouble from taking place," Mr Rodhouse said.

Police have been using automatic number plate recognition technology to stop vehicles getting into the carnival area.

The rioting, sparked by a fatal police shooting in north London's Tottenham area on August 4, was the worst civil disturbances 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 run down by a car as they protected stores from looters in England's second largest city, Birmingham.

Irish Independent

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