LONDON (Reuters) - Police said on Monday they were considering tough measures to prevent disorder at next month’s royal wedding amid fears anarchists will target the event following rioting at a weekend protest in London.
Black-clad, masked youths smashed the fronts of shops, banks and the exclusive Ritz hotel and battled riot police during a rampage across the capital, leaving 109 people injured including 56 officers while there were more than 200 arrests.
The anarchist groups had split from a huge protest of more than 250,000 people organised by trade unions against the government’s austerity measures, and there is concern that they will now target Prince William’s wedding on April 29.
William is to marry long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton at London’s Westminster Abbey, with hundreds of thousands of people expected to take to the streets to watch the procession through the capital in the glare of the world’s media.
There has been some talk of disrupting the wedding on anarchist websites, generating concern that there could be a repeat of the trouble seen at Saturday’s protest especially as the marriage will take place on the May Day bank holiday weekend when there has been disorder in the past.
One website has a picture of William and Kate with nooses around their necks under the headline, “Time To Tie The Knot.”
“I’m sure the activist community will want to make sure the happy couple remember their special day,” it adds.
Commander Bob Broadhurst, who is responsible for the policing operation on the day of the wedding and for next year’s London Olympics, said police were considering expanding the use of stop and search powers at future events to prevent violence.
“We are looking specifically at the royal wedding and what we can to do prevent Saturday’s disorder and violence creeping in to that event,” Broadhurst told BBC radio.
Asked if that could involve searching tourists and well-wishers on their way to central London for the wedding he replied: “We always look at our powers to try to quell violence before it happens.”
A massive security operation has already been planned as Britain is currently at its second highest threat level of “severe,” meaning an attack from militants is considered highly likely, and the wedding is considered an obvious target.
“For the wedding, we will be looking from terrorism downwards,” Broadhurst said.
“You are looking at a different type of threat — the threat to the wedding is a threat to principles, it is a threat to democracy.”
Home Secretary Theresa May said the government was asking the police whether they needed new powers to prevent trouble before it occurs following a series of violent protests in recent months.
“If the police need more help to do their work I will not hesitate in granting it to them,” she told parliament, adding there could be bans on known hooligans attending marches or people wearing masks to cover their faces.
“The police I think have themselves said that they believe there may be some kind of exploitation of these violent extremists at the royal wedding,” Police Minister Nick Herbert told BBC TV.
“The overwhelming majority who attend the royal wedding will be there to enjoy an event and I think the public rightly wants to see the firmest action taken against people who abuse the rights (to protest) and instead resort to totally unacceptable violence.”
Additional reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Paul Casciato