No threat, but UK royal wedding fans in Windsor face tight security

WINDSOR, England (Reuters) – All royal fans coming to Windsor to watch the wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle will have to pass through tight security but there is no known threat to the event, a police commander said on Wednesday.

People browse for Royal Wedding souvenirs ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in Windsor, Britain, May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Phil Noble

More than 100,000 people are expected to flock to the genteel town dominated by Windsor Castle where the couple will marry on Saturday in a glittering ceremony mixing traditional royal pomp with a flavor of Hollywood glamour.

Britain is on its second-highest threat level of severe, meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely. Last year there were four deadly attacks blamed on terrorists which claimed 36 lives.

“There is no particular threat for this event. There’s no intelligence to support that this event is going to be particularly targeted,” Superintendent Jim Weems, the tactical commander for the wedding, told Reuters.

“People will be aware of the atrocities in the UK last year, in the last 18 months in Europe … or around the world, so that will be at the back of people’s minds,” he said. “We police this to keep people safe – we have the capability, with the right police officers in the right place with the right skills to deal with all eventualities.”

Some 5,000 officers were on duty in London when Harry’s brother Prince William married wife Kate in a huge display of British pageantry in 2011 but Weems declined to say how many would be patrolling in Windsor on Saturday.

However, he said it was the biggest operation his Thames Valley force had ever carried out and they had needed to call on neighboring forces to help.

In addition to road closures which will seal off the town and patrols by armed police and search dogs, visitors will also have to pass through airport-style scanning checks before they can reach the streets surrounding the castle where the couple will take part in a carriage procession after the wedding.

SCREENING

“There are search and screening locations all around the town. So when you come by car, if you park and walk into town, or you come by rail, you will go through one of our search locations,” Weems said.

“Every kind of police resourcing you can think of is probably involved in here somewhere along the line.”

It will not just be the threat from militants that will be occupying police thoughts.

Bob Broadhurst, the officer in charge of security for William’s wedding, told Reuters last month police would have to treat everyone in the crowd as a potential terrorist, prankster, protester or royal obsessive who might try to disrupt the occasion.

Police had dealt with 18 protests in London on the day of William’s wedding although Weems said they were not aware of any planned demonstrations.

However, last Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon was briefly marred by a protester invading the stage to grab the microphone from British contestant SuRie while she was performing, graphically showing what issues police might face.

The royals themselves have also been on the receiving end of pranks. In 2003, Aaron Barschak, who called himself “the comedy terrorist”, managed to bypass security at Windsor Castle wearing a pink dress and an Osama bin Laden-style beard to crash William’s 21st birthday party and give him a kiss.

“Our policing operation will cover all eventualities. I won’t go into what we are anticipating,” said Weems.

“We need to remind ourselves and the public that this is a wedding. It is a wedding in which the royal couple want the public to be involved. That is the story, it’s not about the police and security operation.”

Editing by Stephen Addison