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Protests and processions in central London

Blog post   •   Jul 12, 2018 19:15 BST

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D'Orsi discusses the planned protests in London:

As the Metropolitan Police Service police commander in overall charge of the policing operation for the visit to the United Kingdom of the President of the United States of America, I have noticed a lot of information and discussion taking place on social media about the police restricting the right to protest and free speech in Portland Place in London on Friday, 13 July.

I thought that it would be helpful to share with you the current situation. There are several protest groups intending to meet at Portland Place on Friday, 13 July before marching to either Parliament Square or Trafalgar Square. Since 14 June 2018, the Met has been, and continues to be, engaged with organisers from two of the protest groups, 'The Women's March on London - Bring the Noise' and 'Together against Trump'. We have met with representatives from both protest groups on several occasions. It was established that both protest groups are forming up separately in Portland Place, within a short space of time of each other before moving off as two different marches to two separate rally points. Both marches are anticipated to be well attended and therefore Portland Place and the surrounding side streets will be very busy.

To reduce any risks to people gathering in Portland Place we applied for, and Westminster City Council approved, a temporary traffic order on Friday, 13 July between 10:00 and 20:00hrs, which means that road closures will be in place for vehicles.

It is worthy of note that the threat to the United Kingdom from international related terrorism is 'Severe', an attack is highly likely and that crowded places are an attractive target for terrorists with attack methodology involving the use of vehicles as weapons. We have naturally taken this threat into consideration as well.

One of the protest groups, 'Together against Trump', informed police of their intention to use an open top double decker bus as a platform for speeches, ahead of their march. We made a decision that by allowing this vehicle into such a heavily congested space was unsafe, and would have posed an unnecessary risk to the large crowd that is expected.

We are obliged to balance the needs of protesters with issues of the safety, particularly in a crowded place, of those people attending the event and the wider community in London.

The other protest group, 'The Women's March on London - Bring the Noise', informed police of their intention to use a set of steps leading to a building at the location as a platform prior to the march.

Over the next three days, the Met will continue to work with a number of different organisers to police the numerous marches and protests across London. They are all going ahead.

The role of the Met is to achieve a balance between public safety and people's right to protest. Another significant part of the policing operation is also to minimise disruption to the communities of London, so we have tried to ensure that all our plans and policing operations take this into account wherever we can.

Central London will be very busy and congested tomorrow; based on figures the organisers have shared with us, there will be a lot of people coming to protest, which is their right and this principle remains at the heart of our policing operation.

We have just spoken to the representatives of 'Together Against Trump' again and are continuing to work with them to try and achieve an agreeable position.