Queen Elizabeth’s funeral is an ‘unprecedented’ security challenge

The funeral of the only monarch most Britons have ever known involves the biggest security operation London has ever seen.

Mayor Sadiq Khan says Monday’s state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II is an “unprecedented” security challenge, with hundreds of thousands of people in central London and a funeral guest list of 500 emperors , kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers and other leaders everywhere. the world.

“It’s been decades since so many world leaders were in one place,” Khan said. “This is unprecedented … in relation to the various things we are juggling.”

“There could be bad people who want to cause harm to people or to some of our world leaders,” Khan told The Associated Press. “So we are working incredibly hard (the police, the security services and many, many others) to make sure this state funeral is as successful as possible.”

Metropolitan Police Assistant Deputy Commissioner Stuart Cundy said the “hugely complex” police operation is the biggest in the history of the London force, surpassing the London 2012 Olympics.

More than 10,000 police will be on duty on Monday, with London’s bobbies supplemented by reinforcements from all 43 of Britain’s police forces. Hundreds of volunteer marshals and members of the armed forces will also act as ushers along the processional route.

They are just the most visible part of a security operation being run from a high-tech control center near Lambeth Bridge, not far from Parliament.

Street drains and garbage cans are being searched and sealed. On Monday there will be police patrols on rooftops, sniffer dogs on the streets, naval officers on the River Thames and police on horseback.

Drones have been temporarily banned from flying over central London and Heathrow Airport is grounding numerous flights so that the noise from the planes does not disturb the funeral service.

Authorities face the challenge of keeping 500 world leaders safe, without ruffling too many diplomatic feathers. Presidents, prime ministers and royalty will meet off-site before being bussed to the abbey, although an exception is being made for US President Joe Biden, who is expected to arrive in his limousine armored, known as The Beast.

Another challenge is the sheer size of the crowds expected to gather around Westminster Abbey and along the route the coffin will travel after the funeral, past Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park. From there it will be taken in a hearse about 32 kilometers to Windsor, where another 2,000 police officers will be on duty.

The Queen will be buried in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle alongside her husband Prince Philip, who died last year aged 99.

Police are deploying more than 22 miles (36 kilometers) of barriers in central London to control crowds, and traffic chiefs are bracing for packed stations, buses and tube trains as 1 million people flood the heart London ceremonial. Tubes will run later than normal and train companies are adding extra services to help get people home.

While many will be mourning the Queen, support for the monarchy is far from universal. Police have already come under fire for arresting several people who staged peaceful protests during events surrounding the Queen’s death and the ascension of King Charles III.

Cundy said it had been made clear to officers that “people have a right to protest.”

“Our response here in London will be proportionate, it will be balanced and officers will only take action when absolutely necessary,” he said.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said the aim was to keep the event safe “and try to do it as discreetly as possible, because obviously this is a solemn occasion”.

The Dean of Westminster David Hoyle, who will lead the funeral service at the 900-year-old abbey, said preparations were going smoothly, despite the occasional security lapse.

“There was a wonderful moment when I had flower arrangers waiting at the abbey, and there were no flowers because, correctly, the police didn’t recognize which van it was and the flowers were sent back,” he said .

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