London carnival finale peaceful despite riot fears
Huge crowds of revellers partied in the streets of London Monday at the finale of the Notting Hill Carnival, with little sign of trouble despite fears of fresh riots at Europe's biggest street festival.
The second day of festivities started peacefully with 6,500 police officers, the biggest number in recent years at the Caribbean-themed extravaganza, on duty as spectators watched Samba-style dancers perform on floats.
"It's wonderful, there hasn't been any trouble," Francesca, 42, from French Guiana, told AFP.
"We were a bit frightened because of the riots but it is very safe, we are having a great time."
Monday, a public holiday, is the second and busiest day of the two-day festival which attracts around a million people, and there were fears gangs could hijack the event and go on the rampage in a repeat of this month's riots.
The frenzy of violence, which erupted in the north London district of Tottenham on August 6 before spreading across the capital and to other cities, were the worst riots in England since the 1980s and left five people dead.
However, the carnival passed without any trouble on Sunday and the positive start on the second day raised hopes that the colourful event would escape a repeat of the unrest entirely.
With little sign of trouble by 5:00 pm (1600 GMT), several hours after festivities began, London police commander Steve Rodhouse was hopeful the event would pass smoothly.
"We are very pleased," he told BBC television. "It's a great event for London. We want to showcase London to the world but equally we want to keep it safe."
Nevertheless, he added that police would remain vigilant as there were gangs at the carnival intent on causing trouble.
The arrest figures were relatively low, with 17 detained on Monday and 82 the previous day for offences ranging from possession of drugs to theft and possession of weapons, police said.
Cloudy weather did not deter hordes of party-goers from flooding the streets on Monday to cheer on dozens of floats and shimmering dancers in feathers parading through the west London neighbourhood.
Revellers milled between the stalls and thumping sound systems, drinking, dancing, and tasting jerk chicken as the smells of open-cooked Caribbean food wafted through the air.
"It's a really good vibe, everyone's enjoying themselves," said Oliver Prennan, a 22-year-old student.
If the carnival is entirely peaceful, it would be a huge relief for organisers. Coming just three weeks after the riots and with a reputation as a magnet for troublemakers, many had feared this year's event would be axed.
But organisers refused to admit defeat, especially because the carnival was originally a positive response to rioting.
It was founded in 1964 following the disturbances in Notting Hill six years earlier that saw clashes between whites and newly arrived immigrants from the West Indies.
Police chiefs and organisers came to an agreement to allow the festival to go ahead -- including closing early at 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) to allow revellers to disperse before darkness falls.
Scotland Yard also had a slightly larger deployment of officers on the streets Sunday, with 5,500 officers on duty.
Around 4,000 extra officers were on duty around the capital.
Despite the heightened security, some Notting Hill locals were taking no chances, with many more shops boarding up their windows than in previous years and some even leaving the area while the carnival was on.
© 2011 AFP