‘True spirit’ carnival makes peaceful start

Notting Hill Carnival got off to a peaceful start yesterday as Scotland Yard faced its biggest public order test since the riots.

More than 5,000 police officers took to the streets as revellers descended on the capital for Europe’s biggest street festival. It is expected more than a million people will attend the two-day event.

Between 6am and 2pm there were four arrests, the Metropolitan Police said. Three were for drug offences and one for public order issues.

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A spokesman for the force said so far everything was “very peaceful”.

After downpours on Saturday the weather remained mild.

An unprecedented security operation has seen record numbers of police officers on duty, with London’s reputation at stake in the wake of widespread violence and looting earlier this month.

Police chiefs launched their “robust” strategy against troublemakers by making more than 40 pre-emptive arrests and agreeing an earlier finish time with organisers.

Commander Steve Rodhouse said he was “really confident” he had the resources at his disposal to police the two-day event.

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While 5,500 officers were on patrol in the carnival area yesterday, this figure will be beefed up to 6,500 today.

Elsewhere in London there will be more than 4,000 additional officers “as well as the thousands who are normally on duty”, Mr Rodhouse said.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has issued a rallying call to “let the true spirit of London shine through”, hoping the carnival will help heal wounds left by the riots.

“It’s right that carnival goes ahead so we can show the world that the overwhelming majority of London’s people are decent, law-abiding citizens who respect the law, love their city and want to celebrate our vibrant, diverse and historical culture,” he said.

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Mr Rodhouse accepted this year’s event takes place in “unusual and exceptional circumstances”.

The police chief said troublemakers were plotting disruption via social networking technology.

He said the “degree of chatter” surrounding troublemakers was consistent with previous years – despite thousands of arrests after the wave of looting and violence that gripped parts of England a few weeks ago.