The U.K. government told the organizers of this year’s London Olympic Games to prevent people from taking camping equipment into venues to avert Occupy-style protests.
Home Secretary Theresa May said today that the organizing committee, known as Locog, had been asked to add tents to a list of banned items for spectators including firearms and explosives.
“We have clarified and strengthened our policy on encampment-style protests inside Olympic venues,” May told a conference on Games security in central London. “Its success will depend on Locog adding tents and related equipment to the list of items prohibited from being brought into Games venues. I trust they will now do so.”
Anti-capitalist protesters from the Occupy movement set up tented camps by St. Paul’s Cathedral in London’s financial district last year. A court ruled last week that they can be evicted by the City of London Corporation.
The new policy includes screening for camping equipment being taken to venues, encouraging an immediate response from the Games organizers and rapid action by police to use “all available powers” to remove any protest camps that might be set up, May said.
Bob Broadhurst, who will be commanding the policing of the games, urged protest groups to contact him so they could exercise their right to free speech while avoiding conflict.
“We have no plans whatsoever to stop protests, we’re incredibly proud in this country, in London in particular, of our freedom of speech,” Broadhurst said in a speech illustrated with a picture of Prince Charles’s car after it was attacked during student demonstrations over college fees in late 2010.
“I have to try and strike the balance between the rights and needs of protesters, those who’ve come to watch and take part in the games and the people of London,” Broadhurst said. “What I’m asking protest groups is if you want to protest, come and talk to us and we’ll work together. Don’t come late in the day and challenge us and we end up in conflict; we don’t want that.”
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