Demonstrations: Police Threaten `Zero Tolerance' at May Day March ; Scotland Yard Promises Tough Approach after Being Criticised for Allowing Vandalism during Anti-Capitalist Protests Last Year
Jason Bennetto Crime Correspondent, The Independent (London, England)
SCOTLAND YARD has vowed to operate a "zero-tolerance" approach to policing the forthcoming May Day anti-capitalist protests and predicted that up to 1,000 demonstrators intended to bring "violence and disruption" to the capital.
Ringleaders plan to cause chaos and widespread vandalism to up to 200 shops, banks, and public buildings listed on the Internet, police intelligence suggests.
The police said yesterday that they would adopt a far tougher approach after being criticised for allowing demonstrators to vandalise the Cenotaph in Whitehall and dig up the turf at Parliament Square last year.
Up to 5,000 people are expected to take part in a series of day- long demonstrations on 1 May which will culminate in a mass meeting in the afternoon at Oxford Circus in central London. Groups representing anti- capitalists, animal rights' activists, and anti- car demonstrators, have named dozens of targets that include McDonald's, Pret A Manger, Barclays, Tesco, Starbucks, Gap and Body Shop. They intend to cause disruption at all the places listed on the popular board game, Monopoly.
All police leave has been cancelled and an extra 5,000 officers from the Metropolitan Police, the City of London force, and British Transport Police, will be on duty, including riot squads. Police "snatch squads" will be used to arrest demonstrators who break the law and special holding centres are being set up to contain them.
Assistant Commissioner Michael Todd, who is in charge of the Metropolitan Police's operation, said: "There will be zero tolerance for criminality... We will do all we can to ensure people working and living in London are safe."
He said police intelligence indicated that up to 1,000 people were planning to bring London "to a standstill" and would try to occupy high-profile buildings, such as government-owned property.
The final meeting place at Oxford Street at 4pm is expected to see the biggest demonstration. May Day falls on a Tuesday this year and is a normal working day in which the streets of London will be packed with tourists.
Mr Todd said that both he and the Met's Commissioner, Sir John Stevens, believed that mistakes had been made in the policing of the last year's protest which resulted in graffiti being sprayed over the statue of Sir Winston Churchill. …