May the truth be with you | 11.04.2003 14:13
By Graham Keeley, Crime Reporter, Evening Standard
8 April 2003
Hundreds of extra police officers will be deployed to defend businesses and government buildings amid fears of a repeat this year of May Day rioting.
Senior police officers across Europe believe the traditional Labour Day march will be a target for radical groups brought together because of their opposition to the war in Iraq.
Intelligence suggests that, with Britain's involvement in the conflict, London could be a particular focus for the hardcore elements of the anti-war movement, triggering more of the violence that has marred May Day demonstrations in the capital in recent years.
Police believe that with the Stop The War coalition losing its broad appeal since the attack on Iraq by American and British forces, a mood of frustration and growing anger has spread among activists who are said to be determined to overthrow the New Labour Government and who oppose the "increasingly imperialist" US.
There are said to be plans for industrial action and smaller rallies to coincide with tomorrow's Budget and another anti-war rally in London this Saturday.
But senior police officers say their main concerns are the May Day rallies, which they feel may be hijacked by a hardcore of protesters who feel unrepresented by mainstream political parties.
At the same time, police are monitoring far-Right groups because of concern they might exploit tension within the Muslim community.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission claims attacks and intimidation against Muslims have increased since the war with Iraq started, though police say the Muslim community has remained generally peaceful.
Last year's May Day demonstration was orchestrated by the notorious protest group the Wombles - White Overall Movement Building Liberation through Effective Struggle.
Their members wear padded white overalls to break through police lines in imitation of Italian anarchist group Ya Basta!, which took part in demonstrations at 2001's G8 summit of world leaders in Genoa.
These ended in violence and the killing of one protester by police.
Anarchist leaders routinely disseminate their plans for demonstrations on the internet in the run up to May Day, which has become a showpiece for often violent anti- globalisation protests.
In 2001 agitators used the internet to identify a number of sites for protests around London based on the Monopoly board but were foiled in their attempts to bring chaos to London when police corralled 5,000 demonstrators in Oxford Circus for eight hours.
The demonstration led to 65 arrests as well as costing around £20 million in lost business, police pay and extra security.
In 2000, the Guerrilla Gardening website attracted thousands of people to Parliament Square and Whitehall.
The result was tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage - the Whitehall branch of McDonald's was destroyed and a number of statues, including that of Winston Churchill, were defaced - and 97 arrests.
Anarchist leaders admitted the expected violence before last year's demonstrations. At a meeting in Conway Hall in central London - led by 24-year-old Womble chief Allessio Lunghi - one speaker said: "We have a healthy disrespect for property. We can't be responsible for what individuals do on the day."
May the truth be with you