10,000 police mobilised as demonstrators complain about 'heavy-handed' tactics

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The Independent Online

Britain's biggest policing operation will be mobilised today as the G8 Summit begins at Gleneagles amid fears of violent protests.

Over the next 48 hours, more than 10,600 police officers, including some from almost every force, will be on duty to protect the world leaders from the risk of terrorism, anarchy and anti-capitalist protesters.

In the village of Auchterarder, a mile and a half from the gates of the Gleneagles estate, police almost outnumbered residents yesterday as officers swarmed along its single main street.

Military and police helicopters patrolled the skies above the town and surrounding countryside, an airship hovered over the estate and thousands of officers and specialist security teams continued to pour into the area.

Police vehicles were stationed at every junction and bridge crossing the A9 from Edinburgh to Gleneagles, while the five miles of fencing, erected around the 850-acre estate in recent weeks, was guarded by temporary watchtowers, surveillance cameras and a uniformed police officer every 20 yards or so.

Anarchist and anti-capitalism groups have vowed to try to disrupt the summit by blocking main routes to the resort, and yesterday police were forced to cordon off part of Auchterarder for several hours after a bomb hoax.

Today, about 5,000 protesters are expected to parade past the edge of the hotel complex in an arranged demonstration. However, police have warned that they will close down the area and turn people away if significantly higher numbers descend on Auchterarder. They are determined to prevent a repeat of the violence in Edinburgh on Monday which brought the Scottish capital to a standstill, injured 20 people and led to almost 100 arrests.

As the argument continued to rage between the authorities and anti-G8 groups over police tactics, which saw riot police on Scottish streets for the first time, those responsible for the safety of the leaders said they were ready to deal "robustly" with any violent attempts to disrupt the summit.

Although the Chief Constable of Tayside, John Vine, said one of his duties was to "facilitate peaceful protest", he made clear he would not tolerate anything which compromised the safety of the public, peaceful protesters or police officers.

"The sort of violence that we saw in Edinburgh is as a result of groups who won't speak to police about their intentions," he said. "We know these events attract groups of that type. However, we have large numbers of police officers who are well prepared and well equipped should anything arise."

G8 Alternatives, the organiser of today's protest, has agreed a two-mile route which will take demonstrators to within a few hundred yards of the steel fence, but still more than half a mile from the G8 leaders.

Gill Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the group, said there would be "no restrictions" on the number of people attending. "We have plenty of space for people and welcome anyone that wishes to take part in the peaceful protest that has been planned," she said.

Thousands of people continued to arrive yesterday in Edinburgh, 40 miles from Gleneagles, for tonight's Live8 concert at Murrayfield, billed as the "last push" by the Make Poverty History campaign to influence the G8 before talks start.

The line-up for the show includes the Proclaimers, McFly, Bono, Annie Lennox, Midge Ure and Guy Chambers, George Clooney, Texas, the Corrs and James Brown.

There were more demonstrations yesterday at the BP Grangemouth refinery, where Friends of the Earth Scotland and People & Planet blockaded the complex to demand the decommissioning of oil plants, and at Dungavel detention centre in Lanarkshire, in protest at government policy on asylum.

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