Notting Hill Carnival: Questions rise over event amid safety concerns

Seven people were stabbed at the event on Monday evening, in what organisers called “horrifying behaviour”.

They included Takayo Nembhard who was stabbed to death under the Westway flyover close to Ladbroke Grove station at around 8pm – the first murder at the event since 2004.

“Every Tuesday after the August bank holiday, I have the same conversations about Notting Hill Carnival,” Ken Marsh, chairman of the Met Police Federation which represents rank and file officers, told The Times. “I’ve done it year after year after year after year. It’s beyond absurd what’s going on.”

There were 209 arrests – fewer than in 2019 – in total and 74 officers were left injured after many were assaulted by revellers, police said. Two officers were also allegedly sexually assaulted.

While a number of arrests were made, according to research by the newspaper, there were fewer per 100,000 people than the Reading and Leeds festivals, and the 2020 Euros final last year.

Mr Marsh, along with many other police officers, believes that the event should be moved to a private open space, which would mean the police are no longer responsible for its security.

He also said it should be ticketed and suggested it be moved to a big green space such as Hyde Park.

“The public have to put thousands of police officers on the streets of London,” Mr Marsh said. “They have to spend millions policing it, for people who don’t even live in the Notting Hill area. And it’s just become bigger and bigger. It has become a monster.”

Rob Shepherd, Met chief superintendent, wrote on Twitter: “Ticket it, put it in Hyde Park, get the organisers to pay for the policing, don’t change our tolerance towards abuse or crime from what we would allow on any other street on any other day. 74 injured officers is not acceptable for what is meant to be a positive community event.”

Questions have also arisen due to the sheer number of the people who attended this year’s event. In one video posted on social media, the crowd swelled in Ladbroke Grove which saw even police officers caught in the mass of people.

Such was the volume of people packed into the area that one retired police officer who drew comparisons to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster where 97 fans were killed.

Chris Hobbs, a retired Metropolitan Police officer, said: “When I saw it the crush, my reaction was Hillsborough. I saw the police among it helpless. That’s the bigger problem than the violence — the potential for another Hillsborough.”

Fans of tyhe festival, however, says it remains an incredibly important cultural event.

Orlando Crawford, who attended this year said: “We really didn’t see anything dangerous at any point during the festival. Granted, it was only a small group in hundreds of thousands but we only saw one man being arrested by police — and that was on Monday afternoon.”

The violence marred an otherwise successful return for the event.

The two-day carnival, which started last Sunday and is back after being axed two years in a row because of the pandemic, is thought to have attracted two million fans.

Sadiq Khan added: “No crime is excusable, whether it’s during a carnival or at another time, it’s really important if anybody saw anything they support the police in their investigation they’re conducting.

“The carnival has been going on for 56 years now, it’s a really important part of the fabric of London, a really important part of the cultural calendar, organised by the community.

“We support the community, and City Hall will carry on supporting the community in future carnivals.”

Crowds turned the area into a sea of colour on Sunday and yesterday for the world-famous festival, which was first held in 1966 and is a celebration of the history of Caribbean culture and identity.

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