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Blog: Commander Harrington on policing large events & demonstrations

Blog post   •   Nov 09, 2016 17:25 GMT

Police ‘Gold’ for the recent Million Mask March event, Commander BJ Harrington, offers an insight in to how large public events in London take place safely:

At the very core of our commitment to Londoners is our unwavering dedication to keeping you safe and to upholding your rights and freedom of expression. The most obvious illustration of this is when the Met delivers a large policing operation in central London for a public event.

Prior to the weekend our message to Londoners - those who work, live and visit this great city - was to simply come out and enjoy your weekend. If you were visiting central London: don’t change your plans, go ahead. If you were coming to protest: you are welcome and encouraged to do so peacefully. This is all about opening up a dialogue, a positive conversation, and working together to balance the needs of everyone involved.

Londoners would have primarily seen police officers on the streets, on the night, doing an incredible job. But supporting this effort - and far less visible - are a fantastic team of officers and staff with a broad range of expertise and knowledge, that came together to design and deliver a successful operation. But it’s not only the police that deliver it; we work closely with our partners in Councils, Transport and City Hall too.

I’d like to pay tribute to the all those who delivered the operation around the ‘Million Mask March’ event this weekend. Our plans have evolved year-on-year, and the phrase ‘flexible approach’ is probably so engrained now in everyone’s minds that they’ll be saying it in their sleep for weeks to come!

But that’s exactly what an event like this required. With no identified organiser or any clear plans for the event we had to ensure that we were prepared and able to maintain the peace, and to ensure that Londoners were not unduly disrupted whatever might occur.

The majority of those who came to take part in the event protested peacefully and responsibly - and deserve all credit due to them. Where there were isolated instances of anti-social behaviour, we challenged it and prevented it from escalating. When arrests were made, they were proportionate and ensured that the vast majority were able to go about their evening without fear of intimidation or criminality.

All of this can only be achieved with support from the public and partners. This year we enhanced our online presence both before and during the event, to directly support the great work that officers were doing on the street. Having a proactive presence on social platforms ensures we can make a useful and important contribution to conversations with broader and emerging audiences.

The amount of positive conversations and constructive discussion about the event, both from those taking part and those impacted by it, helped provide a balanced and vibrant insight. Being open and accessible resulted in the public, partners and local businesses being reassured about the event.

This level of confidence in the Met's policing of large events, combined with the dedication and expertise of our police officers, is a strong blend that maintains London’s status as a true global leader.