Policing protests taking place around the G7 summit in Cornwall would be “challenging,’’ officers have confirmed.
Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed that around 40 groups had contacted the force to confirm their intention to protest at the event, which taking place at the Carbis Bay Hotel from Friday to Sunday.
However, a number of other groups including those forming the Resist G7 Coalition said they would not liaise with the police.
Over the past week, 5,000 mutual aid officers have arrived in the area from forces across the UK. They would join 1,500 officers and staff from Devon and Cornwall Police being deployed at the event.
More than 100 police dogs would be working at the G7 summit, though no police horses are due to be there.
Inspector Nathan Johnson, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said officers would be facilitating peaceful protest, which he described as “in the very fabric of the United Kingdom’’.
“We want people to be able to protest and protest in a manner that doesn’t disrupt Cornwall,’’ Johnson said.
“I have to get the balance between ensuring people’s human rights around protest happens but also ensuring people’s human rights around go about their daily businesses.
“The big challenges for us are groups who don’t want to engage with the police.
“I think that is a shame because, we like to be able to engage with them, to explain what’s acceptable and what’s not, so that when we do step in and arrest someone because they’re doing something we’ve all agreed is not acceptable, it will not be a surprise.
“The geography of Cornwall is challenging. We know in the summer that it can get really busy without protests.’’
He said officers would be ready to respond if peaceful protest changed into activism such as protesters attempting to lie across the M5 motorway.
“You can’t climb into a venue, you can’t lie in front of the president’s convoy and you can’t block our main arterial route,’’ Johnson said.
According to him, you can have your voice heard elsewhere. You can be on the side of the road with your banners, you can be loud, you can be annoying, so long as you don’t block a route, climb into a venue or lie across our main arterial network.
Designated protest sites have been set up in Truro, Falmouth, Plymouth and Exeter, but many protesters are expected to go to the St Ives and Carbis Bay area.
The exact number of protesters due to head to Cornwall was unknown, but even 500 would be significant for the area, Johnson said.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) expects 1,000 protesters to make their way to St Ives, including for a march through the seaside town on Friday.
On Saturday, protesters from the environmental campaign group would march through Falmouth where the world’s media would be based before returning to St Ives on Sunday for a day of beach-based actions.
Previous XR actions have seen traffic chaos in central London in 2019 and disrupted newspaper distribution in 2020.
A Kill the Bill demonstration campaigning against the restrictions on protest contained in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is also due to take place in Cornwall on Sunday.
“Cornwall is going to be busy we’re going to have crowds who are down enjoying the summer; we’ve got businesses opening ready for the summer.
“We’ve got the press, we’ve got the G7, we’ve got tourists, we’ve got protesters that’s a lot of people going to be in Cornwall so we don’t need very many to cause us some challenges around how we keep the road network open and keep things moving.’’
Officers dealing with protest would be from a range of backgrounds, such as neighbourhood policing, child protection or youth offending, that have completed extra training in public order.
“They’re normal cops from all over the country coming into Cornwall to deal with what’s going to be challenging.;
“They’re going to be dealing with people who will be actively trying to get into the media by doing something that ultimately probably won’t stop a summit but will just stop the local residents and local businesses of Cornwall trying to open up for the summer,’’ Johnson added.
The gathering of world leaders was the biggest security operation ever carried out by Devon and Cornwall Police.