The chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation – the London police officers’ lobby group – has demanded that Notting Hill Carnival be scrapped. Ken Marsh branded the event, which attracts more than a million revellers from around the world every year, “a disgrace”.
According to figures supplied by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), 31 police personnel were injured. The figures have not been independently verified; the severity of the officers’ injuries is not known; and it was not revealed whether hospital treatment was needed for any of these cases. Marsh claimed that some officers had been attacked with blood, bottles and “a potentially acidic substance”. However, only 17 arrests were made for assaults on police officers, which may indicate that some of the injuries were minor or accidental.
Marsh released a press statement saying, “A huge number of officers are getting attacked every year at this event.” He continued: “What other event would be allowed to carry on regardless with so many police colleagues under attack?” (football matches in 1970s and 80s would be one answer). He vowed to take his campaign to close down Carnival to the highest levels of the MPS and to the Mayor’s Office. However, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has already given the event his backing and delivered a supportive speech at the Carnival opening ceremony on Sunday morning.
This is not the first time that Marsh has demanded that Carnival be shut down. Last year he said: “This is not a peaceful and fun-loving event… A seemingly growing number of people appear intent on hijacking this carnival and turning it into a bank holiday battleground…”
He added: “I think many Londoners will wonder whether the significant amount of taxpayers’ money spent policing this event is frankly worth it.” Marsh omitted to mention that Notting Hill Carnival’s contribution to the economy is 10 times higher than the cost of policing, organising and clearing up.
Marsh’s hard-line views on Carnival may have been shaped by police perceptions of London’s black population early in his career. He joined the force in 1993 and was assigned to the Broadwater Farm Estate where eight years earlier a policeman had been hacked to death by an angry mob. Marsh has complained that the Independent Police Complaints Commission is unfair to police officers, insisted there is no racism in the police force and maintained that to tackle knife crime, “the best thing is for officers to put hands in pockets, to search people”.
This year the carnival was managed by one of Marsh’s ex-colleagues, David Morgan, formerly a Kensington-based policeman and now a director of London Street Events. The company was appointed by a stakeholders’ group that includes the Metropolitan Police.
Unverified police statistics suggest that this year 313 arrests were made “at Notting Hill Carnival” (an area the MPS refuses to define) compared with a claimed 454 in 2016.
The MPS admitted that last year’s figures were inflated by the Psychoactive Substances Act making nitrous oxide (laughing gas) a banned substance when previously it had been a ‘legal high’. There seemed to be fewer gas canisters and balloons on the ground this year, so perhaps fewer arrests too. However, a court ruled this week that nitrous oxide is not a “psychoactive substance”, so is not actually covered by the new law.
The police were heavily criticised for tweeting about arrests they made “in the run-up to Notting Hill Carnival” while providing no evidence of a link between arrests in distant parts of the capital with an intention to commit crime at the event. It is probable that some of those pre-bank holiday arrests were for intent to supply nitrous oxide; these cases may now collapse if the court ruling has effectively decriminalised the substance.