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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"This is one of the biggest protests for years"
 real 56k

Mark, Reclaim the Streets spokesman
"The only antagonism there is likely to be is from the police"
 real 28k

Alan Simpson MP
"I've been pretty horrified at the two weeks of police briefing"
 real 28k

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Police hope their tactics will prevent violence"
 real 56k

Monday, 30 April, 2001, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Blair backs May Day police
Globalise Resistance campaigner prepares banner for May Day protest
The Met has plans if the protests get out of control
Prime Minister Tony Blair has expressed his "absolute and total backing" for the police on the eve of the May Day demonstration in London.

Thousands of protesters are expected to congregate in the capital and there are fears of a repeat of last year's violence.

Mr Blair said protesters passed the limits of tolerance when they sought "to inflict fear, terror, violence and criminal damage" on people and property.


It is not idealism. It is idiocy. It is not protest, it is crime pure and simple

Tony Blair
His backing comes after Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens confirmed he had no intention of using plastic baton rounds during any demonstrations.

Earlier the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Lord Harris, told the BBC he understood officers might resort to the use of rubber bullets if the situation got out of hand.

But Sir John said: "I would like to make it clear that the authorisation to use baton rounds would be my personal responsibility and mine alone.

'Idiocy'

"Such ammunition has never been deployed on mainland Britain and I have no intention to do so tomorrow."

Rubber bullets, which caused three fatalities in Northern Ireland, were phased out in the 1970s and replaced with plastic baton rounds, which were blamed for 14 deaths during the Troubles.

Prime Minister Tony Blair declared his support for the police at the London Press Club awards lunch on Monday afternoon.

He said: "I believe people in Britain are tolerant, outward-looking, inclusive. But I believe too that there are indeed limits to that tolerance.

"It is likely we will see the limits of tolerance being challenged again tomorrow, in the so-called 1 May demonstrations.

Churchill's statue protected against May Day protesters
Churchill's statue is protected against vandals
"I want today to express our absolute and total backing for the police in dealing with anyone who seeks to bring fear and violence to our streets.

He said last year's May Day protests were wrong, adding that there was "a right way to protest in a democracy and there is a wrong way".

"Again, Britain and its people are not just tolerant of peaceful protest but see it, rightly, as a vital part of our democratic process," he said.

"But the desecration of statues, and particularly The Cenotaph and the violence and intimidation of a year ago, go way, way beyond that.

"It is not idealism. It is idiocy. It is not protest, it is crime pure and simple."

Over-reaction

A crowd of between 6,000-10,000 is expected to converge on London for the protests.

Labour MP Alan Simpson said he feared the police were over-reacting.

"I have been pretty horrified at the two weeks of police briefings about the violence that they are anticipating," the MP for Nottingham South told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"What the public is left with is a pretty clear message that whoever turns up is going to looking for a good kicking and that is probably what they are going to get."

Riot police
Police used film footage to track down offenders
In May Day protests last year, demonstrators caused 500,000 worth of damage as they dug up a square in front of parliament, smashed windows and daubing statues with graffiti.

Leave has been cancelled and more than 5,000 officers from the Met, City of London and British Transport Police will be deployed.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has warned that organisers of anti-capitalist demonstrations have no interest in a peaceful event.

He appealed for people to stay away from the event so that ringleaders, who "got away" last year could be identified.

Metropolitan assistant commissioner Michael Todd said that Oxford Street was likely to be a focus for demonstrations.

He said that at one shop someone had been seen filming.

When challenged they said they were filming so that the state of the building before and after May Day could be compared.

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See also:

24 Apr 01 | UK
May Day violence warning
30 Apr 01 | UK
Rebels without good cause?
02 May 00 | UK Politics
In defence of direct action
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