London police in raids ahead of flashpoint carnival
Police said Wednesday they made 35 arrests in pre-emptive strikes to prevent a repeat at the Notting Hill Carnival, Europe's biggest street party, of the riots which rocked England this month.
Scotland Yard Commander Steve Rodhouse said intelligence showed gangs were planning to cause trouble at the event in west London on Sunday and Monday.
The police chief said he was "really confident" he had the necessary resources to protect the annual celebration of Caribbean culture which attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators onto the streets of the capital.
A total of 5,500 officers will be on patrol around the carnival venue on Sunday while 6,500 will be on duty on Monday, a national holiday.
There will also be more than 4,000 officers elsewhere in the capital "as well as the thousands who are normally on duty", Rodhouse said.
Organisers resisted calls to cancel this year's event following the riots and looting which broke out in Tottenham, north London, on August 6 and spread to other parts of London and other cities including Birmingham and Manchester.
Police in London have arrested more than 1,950 people over the worst civil disorder in England in decades.
"We realise that carnival will be taking place this year in unusual and exceptional circumstances," Rodhouse told reporters.
Police were seeing signs that troublemakers were plotting via social networking technology to disrupt the carnival, just as troublemakers had used BlackBerry Messenger to coordinate looting sprees during the riots.
"At this stage it would be fair to say we do have intelligence that some gangs do want to come to the carnival and create trouble for us," Rodhouse said.
"Plus we know that some people believe that we will be diverted from policing the rest of London due to the Notting Hill Carnival, leaving the rest of the capital without a policing presence. This is not the case."
The carnival was founded in response to the Notting Hill riots of 1958, which saw violence flare between whites and immigrants from the West Indies.
© 2011 AFP