26 June 2002

South Africa: US Police Warn SA About Dangers of Protesters

Johannesburg — United States' police warned on Wednesday that protesters had become more violent over the years and they would be one of the biggest threats to security at the upcoming World Summit of Sustainable Development.

"Protesters have become more violent across the world in the last four to five years... Anything that is symbolic of capitalism they are against," said John Timoney, former police commissioner of the Philadelphia police department.

He said "anarchists and anti-capitalists" first target was the police as they worked for governments.

Their second target was private businesses as they represented capitalists.

Timoney and New York's police department chief of transportation Patrick Harnett were briefing members of the SA Police Service (SAPS) on their experiences at this type of summit in the United States.

The briefing was conducted via digital video conferencing.

Timoney suggested that security could be tightened at businesses by hiring private security guards.

He said these guards would have to work in conjunction with the police.

Timoney also said that businesses should decide before the start of the summit how to deal with security problems.

"South African businesses must plan ahead. If protesters take over how will you get your staff out... or will some businesses close down during the summit."

Harnett said the companies and police would have to identify where there could be problems and draw up detailed maps of these areas for security planning purposes.

A representative from the SAPS's VIP unit asked the two Americans how to deal with the transportation of VIPs.

Harnett said that in the United States VIPs and delegates transport was pre-arranged. Top-ranking delegates were transported in limousines and private cars along specific routes.

Lower-level delegates were ferried in buses which had police on board, he said.

Air space over conference centres was declared a no-fly zone.

The SAPS told the two that they were considering declaring the centres where various parts of the summit was being held gun-free zones.

Timoney said this was a good idea and that at some conferences in the United States it was only the local police and secret service members who were allowed to carry firearms in the centres.

Harnett said it was imperative that anybody in the centres, including police and employees, displayed their credentials. The accreditation is being done by the United States.

On the possibility of heads of state bringing large entourages of security personnel, Timoney said the police should gather information on political situations across the globe to identify how much security certain leaders would need with them all the time.

"Different states bring different targets," he said.

Harnett suggested that the same police officers be assigned to a VIP throughout the summit.

"You got to pick your best and brightest," he said.

Timoney said communication between police had to be of the highest standard, especially in the conference centres.

He said that sometimes police would want to communicate without alarming delegates and said this could be done by using lights.

Green lights could mean that everything was fine and red lights could indicate that the centre needed to be immediately evacuated.

Harnett also said that delegates had to be warned which areas were not safe to visit.

Director Happy Schutte, the Gauteng co-ordinator of public order policing, told reporters after the conference that security arrangements for the summit were "going well" and police were concentrating on the final touches.

The main part of the summit will be taking place in Sandton from August 26 to September 4.

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