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Planet Ark World Environment News South Africa readies 26,000 police for Earth Summit

Date: 27-Jun-02
Country: SOUTH AFRICA
Author: Manoah Esipisu

Hundreds of civilians working in the police service and reservists have been put on standby to help with any trouble during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).

"We have over 7,000 police reinforcements for Gauteng (the province that includes Johannesburg), which already has 19,000 staff, for the summit," said Mike Schutte, provincial coordinator for public policing in Johannesburg.

Schutte and other senior officers coordinating security for the summit spoke during a video-link, organised by the U.S. consul in Johannesburg, with security experts from New York.

Police said last week they would get tough with protestors targeting the WSSD - a follow up to the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 - which is expected to draw 100 leaders, and have banned "spontaneous gatherings".

U.S. President George Bush does not plan to attend the summit, officials said last week, ending months of speculation.

The South African government expects 65,000 visitors to Johannesburg for the event - including 40,000 activists from environmental, labour, youth and women's groups.

Security consultants John Timoney and Patrick Harnett, both formerly with the New York Police Department, warned South African police that activists would hold licenced and unlicenced protests despite police restrictions and urged them to be ready.

Radical South African activists said on Monday they would defy police plans to restrict their protests during the summit to be held from August 26 to September 4.

Demonstrations have hit virtually every international political gathering in recent years to protest against capitalism, globalisation or military operations. In 1999 protesters derailed the launch of a new round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations in Seattle.

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