Selfie ban and ring of steel at Notting Hill Carnival. The two million people attending the Notting Hill Carnival this Bank Holiday weekend have been warned by police not to take ‘selfies’ near the remains of Grenfell Tower. Amid concerns that anger over the tragedy could spill over into violence, senior officers appealed to people’s “humanity and discretion” to prevent a “circus” near the site where at least 80 people lost their lives.
As Metropolitan Police faced unprecedented security challenges at this year’s West London festival, officers yesterday revealed how a ring of steel was in place along the procession route to try to prevent a terrorist attack. Steel barriers and a daytime ban on cars have been set up following the Barcelona, London Bridge and Westminster Bridge terror attacks.
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Officers guarding the perimeter will also have specialist kits to check water bottles are not being used to conceal acid, the weapon of choice in a spate of recent attacks. Many float organisers have provided performers with protective gloves and specially adapted bottles to shower a victim with water to wash off corrosive substances. Police will also use facial recognition software and “super recognisers”, officers with an ability to spot criminals in a crowd, to monitor the event.
However, lingering anger about the inferno at the North Kensington tower block remains a key concern. Chief Superintendent Robyn Williams, force spokeswoman on the Notting Hill carnival, said she had visited relatives of those who died and survivors to discuss how best to deal with how the procession passes the charred remains of the flats that dominate the skyline.
“The Notting Hill carnival footprint includes the ward area that Grenfell Tower stands in,” she said. “The community don’t want people who are not resident to be casually passing through and taking photos or posing for selfies. “We will appeal to people’s humanity and discretion. We want people to move through the area surrounding Grenfell Tower so it doesn’t become a circus.
“The residents are people who walk around the community who have had a catastrophic experience, and people can say things and conduct themselves in a way that can be insensitive. People don’t know who they are sat next to on public transport or stood next to in the corner shop.” Campaigners at recent public meetings have expressed concerns that some groups with vested interest in fomenting violence could target the carnival and try to use the anger surrounding the tragedy to start trouble.
Festival organisers want to establish a “quiet zone” where sound systems on the floats are switched off as mark of respect as they pass the 24-storey block. Party-goers will be invited to wear green to show their support for those who perished and the survivors of the blaze in June.
Meanwhile, Commander David Musker, who is in charge of the policing of the carnival, was forced to defend the Met’s robust policing tactics in the run up to the Notting Hillcarnival following criticism from the grime rapper, Stormzy, that such heavy handed tactics were reserved for black events rather than predominantly white music festivals like Glastonbury.
Issues at the Notting Hill Carnival?
The musician had complained that the force tweeted a picture of a seizure of one kilogram of heroin as part of its preventative operation in the run up to the Notting Hill carnival. The move was condemned by some as unfair because such a drug would be unlikely to be taken or sold at a carnival. In the last few weeks, officers have executed hundreds of search warrants and arrested more than 650 people, many now banned from attending the event.
“What do the public expect of us?” Commander Musker asked. “Last year we had 70 to 80 stabbings, four of them people who nearly lost their lives. My officers saved the lives of those people. But, I cannot remember a single murder at Glastonbury.
“We are going to be uncompromising in ensuring the safety and security of the public, and if that means putting a significant effort into dealing with criminality before carnival I am unapologetic about that and I will continue to do it.
“I don’t really care what we arrest them for. I’ll be lawfully audacious, as I can, to get them off the streets. “So whether they’ve got heroin, or they’ve got other class A drugs, drug dealing, serious violence takes place at carnival, we will try to target them and get them off the streets. “So it’s a fallacy to suspect that because they’re caught in possession of heroin that they are not coming to carnival.”
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