We're prepared for Genoa-style violence, admits G8 police chief
The Scotsman | July 5, 2005
By GETHIN CHAMBERLAIN
|ONE of Scotland's most senior police officers warned yesterday in the run-up to G8 that he was prepared for violence on the scale of that seen in Genoa four years ago, and added that police intended to crack down hard on anyone looking for trouble.
Peter Wilson, the chief constable of the Fife force, said it would be reasonable to expect and to prepare for violence on a par with that which saw running battles between police and protesters in the Italian city in 2001.
He urged members of the public to call police if they were suspicious about the behaviour of any individuals they thought might be planning to cause trouble and he warned potential troublemakers that police officers would be keeping them under surveillance. "We know where to find you," he said.
But Mr Wilson, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said he believed that most demonstrators intended to protest peacefully and he was optimistic that violence could be restricted.
He was speaking as police unveiled the operations room from which they will co-ordinate the movement of the 10,600 officers - more than 6,000 drafted in from English and Welsh forces - who will be on duty during the G8 summit in Gleneagles.
Despite concerns that some of the demonstrators will travel to the summit intent on seeking confrontation, police planners claim to be confident that they can handle large-scale arrests.
Forces from around the country have made prisoner transport vehicles available and a police spokesman said coaches may also be hired to take prisoners to be processed at police stations. But according to Mr Wilson, there are no special plans in place to detain those arrested.
The massive police operation will be masterminded from the Scottish Police Information and Co-ordination Centre at Fife Constabulary headquarters in Glenrothes, and will be known as Operation Sorbus, after the rowan tree purported to be able to ward off evil spirits.
Among the equipment which Scottish police have borrowed for the occasion are two helicopters for Tayside Police, fitted with state-of-the-art equipment to monitor the situation on the ground.
Inspector Ken Brown, the head of the Tayside Police Air Support Unit, said the helicopters, fitted with public address systems, searchlights, infra-red systems and video cameras, would assist in the overall policing operation.
However, police are insisting that, for most of the country, it will be business as usual.
But Mr Wilson said: "I would be surprised if we didn't see an attempt at disorder someplace."
Police would target "pretty hard" anyone who stepped out of line. "We realise there may be those who will try and use this occasion to create disorder and disruption but our message to them is that we will not tolerate any trouble and we will deal with such incidents robustly."
Referring to the violence which marred the Genoa summit, he said: "It is a reasonable thing to expect and prepare for."
He said officers would be looking out for troublemakers. "We know who you are and if you are causing trouble here then it may be the case that we are coming to see where you are standing at the next protest," he said.