Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Police ask Margaret Thatcher funeral protesters to identify themselves

Floral tributes outside Baroness Thatcher's residence in Chester Square, London
Floral tributes outside Baroness Thatcher's residence in Chester Square, London
Police officers stand guard next to floral tributes outside Baroness Thatcher's residence in Chester Square, London
The funeral of Britain’s former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher takes place in London. She will have a ceremonial funeral – a step short of a state funeral – with full military honours
Crowds gather at Free Derry Corner in Derry Bogside to celebrate the death of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, on Monday night. Picture Margaret McLaughlin 8-4-13
Crowds gather at Free Derry Corner in Derry Bogside to celebrate the death of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, on Monday night. Picture Margaret McLaughlin ? 8-4-13
Crowds gather at Free Derry Corner in Derry Bogside to celebrate the death of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, on Monday night. Picture Margaret McLaughlin ? 8-4-13
Crowds gather at Free Derry Corner in Derry Bogside to celebrate the death of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, on Monday night. Picture Margaret McLaughlin ? 8-4-13
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 9th April 2013 - Republicans take part in a car cavalcade and protest on the Fall Road in west Belfast after the death of Margaret Thatcher. A cavalcade of of cars left Twinbrook Estate, the former home of hungerstrikerf Bobby Sands and made its way to Divis Tower close to Belfast City Centre. The former prime minister died on Monday aged 87 after suffering a stroke while staying at the Ritz hotel in central London. Picture by Kelvin Boyes
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Nils Jorgensen / Rex Features (100061a) MARGARET THATCHER MARGARET THATCHER AND HELMUT KOHL AT DOWNING STREET, LONDON, BRITAIN - 1983
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Visit to Northern Ireland. Mrs Thatcher talks to Siobhan O'Hara (left) and Katherine O'Hare during her visit to Rathmore Grammar School, Finaghy. 19/6/1978 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE
Indians look at the sand sculpture of former Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made by Sudarshan Pattnaik, as a mark of homage, at the golden beach of Puri, about 67 kilometers (42 miles) away from the southeastern Indian temple city Bhubaneswar, India, India, Tuesday, 09 April 2013. (AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: Floral tributes outside Baroness Thatcher's residence in Chester Square on April 9, 2013 in London, England. Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke yesterday, aged 87. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Messages are displayed in a book of condolence in honour of former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher at the Grantham Museum in her hometown Grantham. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 9, 2013. See PA story DEATH Thatcher. Photo credit should read: Rui Vieira/PA Wire
Flowers laid outside the home of Baroness Thatcher in Belgravia, London following her death this morning after a stroke
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: Floral tributes outside Baroness Thatcher's residence in Chester Square on April 9, 2013 in London, England. Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke yesterday, aged 87. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
A message is left on a floral tribute outside the birthplace and childhood home of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher, Grantham. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 9, 2013. See PA story DEATH Thatcher. Photo credit should read: Rui Vieira/PA Wire
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: A detail of a floral tribute left outside the residence of Baroness Thatcher in Chester Square on April 8, 2013 in London, England. It has been confirmed that Lady Thatcher has died this morning following a stroke aged 87. Margaret Thatcher was the first female British Prime Minster and governed the UK from 1979 to 1990. She led the UK through some turbulent years and contentious issues including the Falklands War, the miner’s strike and the Poll Tax riots. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
A letter of condolence outside the home of Baroness Thatcher in Belgravia, London following her death this morning after a stroke
Margaret Thatcher
File photo dated 27/06/84 of a march by trade unionists through Central London in support of the miners. Miners' leader Arthur Scargill (centre) joined the march with Labour MP Tony Benn (left) after it left the Tower of London
Margaret Thatcher waves to well-wishers after her 1983 election win
A man lays a bunch of flowers outside the home of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Belgravia, London, following her death
Margaret Thatcher pictured with her husband Denis in 1999
A man picks up a newspaper at a newsagent in central London, the day after Baroness Thatcher died at the age of 87 following a stroke
The Union Flag is lowered to half mast at the Houses of Parliament after the death of Baroness Thatcher
The funeral of Baroness Thatcher will be held next Wednesday
Margaret Thatcher arrives at 10 Downing Street after winning the 1979 election
Dave Whelan and Sir John Madejski would welcome a tribute to the late Baroness Thatcher
Republicans take part in a car cavalcade and protest on the Fall Road in west Belfast after the death of Margaret Thatcher
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 9th April 2013 - Republicans take part in a car cavalcade and protest on the Fall Road in west Belfast after the death of Margaret Thatcher. A cavalcade of of cars left Twinbrook Estate, the former home of hungerstrikerf Bobby Sands and made its way to Divis Tower close to Belfast City Centre. The former prime minister died on Monday aged 87 after suffering a stroke while staying at the Ritz hotel in central London. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye .
Republicans take part in a car cavalcade and protest on the Fall Road in west Belfast after the death of Margaret Thatcher
Republicans take part in a car cavalcade and protest on the Fall Road in west Belfast after the death of Margaret Thatcher
The funeral of Britain’s former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher takes place in London. She will have a ceremonial funeral – a step short of a state funeral – with full military honours
Martin McGuinness has called on people not to celebrate the death of Baroness Thatcher
People cheer in front of a banner displaying the message 'The Witch is Dead' as they celebrate the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Brixton on April 8, 2013
People gathered last night to celebrate the death of Baroness Thatcher in Brixton, south London
Messages in a book of condolence reveal many are mourning Baroness Thatcher, but some have seen her death as a cause for celebration
PACEMAKER ARCHIVE 1978 REF 180/78 Margaret Thatcher picturerd at a press conference at the Dunadry hotel with her friend Airey Neave June 1978
File photo dated 12/10/84 of the upper floors of the Grand Hotel Brighton, severely damaged in the aftermath of an IRA bomb, which was planted during Tory Party conference week. Baroness Thatcher died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday April 8, 2013. See PA story DEATH Thatcher. Photo credit should read: PA/PA Wire
FILE - April 8: Baroness Thatcher Dies Aged 87 - Offbeat http://www.gettyimages.com/Account/MediaBin/LightboxDetail.aspx?Id=14677943&MediaBinUserId=1545411. British prime minister Margaret Thatcher covering her face with her hand at the 1985 Conservative Party Conference. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Pacemaker Belfast -Archive Margaret Thatcher on a visit to Ulster Day. 16-11-1990 1101-90-C
Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, on a visit to Belfast. 1981. Mrs thatcher chatting with the SDLP leader John Hume. 6/3/1981
PACEMAKER BELFAST 19/5/2011 The Anglo-Irish Agreement signing at Hillsborough Castle. Margaret Thatcher and Irish Premier Garret Fitzgerald present. 15/11/85 19/5/2011 Former Irish prime minister Garret FitzGerald has died in hospital in Dublin after a short illness. Mr FitzGerald, who was 85, served twice as taoiseach between 1981 and 1987 at the head of two coalition governments.
GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 08: Members of the public dance in George Square to mark the death of Baroness Margaret Thatcher on April 8, 2013 in Glasgow, Scotland. It has been confirmed that Lady Thatcher has died this morning following a stroke aged 87. Margaret Thatcher was the first female British Prime Minster and governed the UK from 1979 to 1990. She led the UK through some turbulent years and contentious issues including the Falklands War, the miners' strike and the Poll Tax riots. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Visit of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at St. Angelo Airport outside Enniskillen where she is pictured inspecting the 39 Field Regiment of Royal Artillery who presented her with a beret by Col Kit Faith who is their commander. Pacemaker Press Intl. 6th March 1981 195/81/BW
The British flag flies at half mast at Downing Street, London as Lady Margaret Thatcher has died at the age of 87 following a stroke, her family announced today. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday April 8, 2013. See PA story DEATH Thatcher. Photo credit should read: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Police have asked groups planning to demonstrate during or in advance of Margaret Thatcher's funeral to make themselves known to officers so that their "right to protest can be upheld".

The call, which echoes similar ones made in the run-up to the Olympics, is an attempt to avoid any outbreak of violence or public order issues which might threaten to mar the funeral procession. However, the suggestion will anger those who say the right to protest should not need prior authorisation by police.

The plea from the Metropolitan Police comes amid criticism that taxpayers will have to foot the majority of the estimated £8m-to-£10m bill for hosting the ceremonial funeral. Lady Thatcher's estate is making a contribution and the rest will come out of the public purse. Mindful of generating further unrest in the run-up to Wednesday, Downing Street said it would only confirm how much the funeral will cost the public once it has taken place.

Groups of various political hues have used websites and social media to encourage some sort of protest or public statement on the funeral day. Suggestions have ranged from anarchist groups promoting violent demonstrations and direct action to more sober offerings such as silent vigils or wearing a single colour in protest at Mrs Thatcher's divisive legacy. A separate call has gone out to hold a mass party and protest in Trafalgar Square this Saturday at 6pm.

In Northern Ireland, security sources have for more than six months been reasonably confident that the array of dissident republican groups have been unable to set up attacks in mainland Britain. But it is understood that the Met has been in touch with the Police Service of Northern Ireland for a threat assessment.

The biggest fear for police is the possibility that those advocating violent action may force them into a "robust" public order response that could then trigger wider clashes and mar the funeral day itself.

One post on the popular protest forum indymedia.org.uk wrote: "I suspect there are thousands of people who think that having a party is not enough. They want to be there at her state funeral. They want to protest at the injustice of Thatcher parading her wealth and status through the streets of London, when so many live and die in poverty as a result of her policies."

 

Funeral threat: Scotland Yard's crack team

 

Loners obsessed with public figures will be vetted by a little-known Scotland Yard unit in an attempt to prevent disruption at the funeral of Baroness Thatcher next week.

 

The Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (FTAC) was set up in 2006 to gauge the risks from stalkers and the mentally ill who harass public figures. It receives 1,000 referrals a year with about half of those needing further action, according to its website.

 

The small team, comprising 10 Metropolitan police officers and NHS staff, will scrutinise the guest list of foreign dignitaries, which has yet to be released by the family and Downing Street.

 

Experts said that any likely disruption to the ceremony from a loner is likely to come from the targeting of a high-profile mourner rather than a lingering obsession with the former prime minister.

 

Scotland Yard said that its intelligence picture was still "under development" for the funeral of one of Britain's most controversial and divisive political figures. The force is monitoring social media sites with political protests rather than lone fanatics seen as the most likely cause of potential disruption.

 

Hundreds of people have been sectioned since the FTAC was established. Cases are referred to the unit after threatening letters are received by prominent figures or individuals make personal approaches. It has been estimated that some 10,000 bizarre or threatening messages are received every year by royal households.

 

Most of the cases the FTAC deals with are people suffering serious illnesses including schizophrenia and delusional disorder.

 

Paul Peachey

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