British police flooded part of London with extra officers and authorized the use of tough search powers Monday at the Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s largest street festival, in the wake of riots across England earlier this month.
London’s Metropolitan Police said it had invoked extensive search powers which allow officers to stop people – and order them to remove hoods, masks or other disguises – if they suspect there is a possibility of serious violence in a specific neighborhood.
A total of 88 people were arrested on Sunday, on the first day of the two-day carnival which celebrates Caribbean culture and attracts about 1 million people. The event, launched in 1964, is known for its flamboyant dancers, colorful costumes and rousing steel bands.
Police said about 6,500 officers were out on the streets on Monday – more than the number who were deployed on duty during April’s royal wedding.
London’s mayor Boris Johnson, who planned to visit the event, said the carnival could help bring Londoners together after the unrest that saw parts of the capital suffer violence, looting and arson.
About 3,000 people have so far been arrested on suspicion of crimes, and many charged and jailed, during the four nights of rioting in London, Manchester, Birmingham and other English cities.
The rioting, sparked by a fatal police shooting in north London’s Tottenham area on Aug. 4, were 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 city, Birmingham.
“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,” Johnson said.
Police Commander Steve Rodhouse said the first day of the carnival had passed off without serious incident. The number of arrests appeared to be lower than last year, when about 270 people were detained over the two days of the event.
“Through effective stop-and-search, we believe we have deterred and prevented trouble from taking place,” Rodhouse said.
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