View Full Version : Security tight for Bush arrival

18 Nov 03,, 15:04
Security tight for Bush arrival

President George Bush is on his way to the UK for a state visit amid some of the tightest security London has seen.

Scotland Yard has put in place a 5m operation which peaks with 5,100 police on the capital's streets.

An opinion poll suggests more Britons back the visit than oppose it, but tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected at a march on Thursday.

Officers say security measures reflect the general terrorist threat as well as the need to police the protests.

Mr Bush, who flew out of Washington just before 1300 GMT, is the first US president to have a state visit to the UK since Woodrow Wilson in 1918, which means he is officially invited by the Queen and stays at Buckingham Palace.

Despite the huge numbers of police preparing for the visit, grandmother Lindis Percy, 61, managed to climb the front gates of Buckingham Palace on Monday to protest, before coming down voluntarily.

Mrs Percy, of Hull, who was arrested and later bailed, said she was "amazed" she had been able to unfurl a banner declaring Mr Bush was not welcome in the UK.

The UK Prime Minister Tony Blair urged supporters of Mr Bush to make their voices heard along with those of the protesters.

Opinion poll

His spokesman said: "This is precisely the right time for President Bush to be visiting this country and a view the prime minister believes is widely shared throughout the country.

"He recognises and accepts there are those who are opposed to the visit, some of them strongly, and that they have the right to make their voice heard.

"But he believes that the majority of people welcome President Bush, recognise the importance of the relationship with America and note the commitment he is showing to establishing democracy in Iraq alongside our diplomats and soldiers."

A Guardian/ICM opinion poll suggests that 43% of people welcome Mr Bush's visit to the UK, compared with 36% who say they would prefer he did not come.

'High alert'

Extra police have been placed at ports and airports and checking people arriving on Eurostar trains from France.

Scotland Yard's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Andy Trotter said there would be 14,000 police shifts worked covering the visit.

"We are on a very high level of alert at the moment," he said. "We obviously have the visit of the president coinciding with that and we've got to make sure that London is kept safe and the visit goes well."

He denied reports that police were considering shutting mobile phone masts during protests against the president's visit.

Mr Bush will also be protected by hundreds of armed guards from the US.

'Peaceful protest'

They will not be granted diplomatic immunity, and will be subject to the British legal system if they shoot anybody, the Home Office has promised.

Mr Bush has shrugged off the prospect of protests, saying he supports free speech and expects the trip to be "fantastic".

After reassurances from the Stop the War Coalition, CND and the Muslim Association of Britain that their mass protest on Thursday will be peaceful, police have agreed they can now march up Whitehall.

Michael Howard, leader of the opposition Conservative party, described the security operation in London as "a price worth paying for freedom".

Charles Kennedy, leader of the UK's third largest party the Lib Dems, urged protesters to "use the opportunity to leave the president in no doubt as to the extent of public concern... about the way in which events tragically have unfolded".

Guantanamo Bay

Meanwhile, Azmat Begg, the father of Moazzam, one of the British terror suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay, has called on Mr Bush to release him from the Cuban military base to face justice on home soil.

As the president and his wife arrive in London on Tuesday, a Stop Bush rally will be held near Euston Station.

And on Wednesday, when the president is due at Buckingham Palace, there will be an "alternative state procession" including a Big Red Peace Bus.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone is holding a peace party in City Hall on Wednesday, attended by many groups opposed to the war in Iraq.


18 Nov 03,, 17:24
The most admirable part is that the protests are allowed to happen, showing the ultimate freedom, the freedom of speech