Police flooded the streets of London on Sunday for the start of the annual Notting Hill Carnival amid fears the event could be marred by a repeat of the riots that shook the British capital earlier this month.
REUTERS - Revellers take to London's streets on Sunday for one of Europe's biggest street parties with police out in record numbers to make sure there was no repetition of riots that scarred the British capital three weeks ago.
About a million people usually flock to west London for the two-day Notting Hill Carnival, a colourful annual celebration of Caribbean culture featuring steel drum bands, calypso music and dancers in flamboyant costumes.
The festival carries more than usual significance this year because it is the biggest event in London since riots flared in the capital on Aug. 6, spreading to other major English cities.
Police say 5,500 officers will be on duty on Sunday and 6,500 on the Monday, a public holiday, when the main parade takes place -- an increase of 500 per day on previous years. Another 4,000 police will be on stand-by.
"The police have been targeting potential troublemakers and anyone thinking of causing trouble should stay away," London Mayor Boris Johnson said in a statement.
The capital's police have made 2,000 arrests in the aftermath of the disorder that saw hooded rioters looting businesses, setting buildings alight and fighting pitched battles with officers.
The riots, which began when a protest over the police shooting of a suspect turned violent, were a severe knock to London's reputation, raising questions over the police's ability to keep order at next year's London Olympics.
Officials hope the carnival will show a brighter side of London after the riots.
"This is a carnival for the people -- let's show the world we know how to throw a party and have a good time," Johnson said.
This year's Notting Hill Carnival, a popular tourist attraction, only went ahead after organisers held talks with police and local residents and will finish a couple of hours earlier than usual on Monday.
Metropolitan Police Commander Steve Rodhouse said last week that a crackdown on known troublemakers before the event, called Operation Razorback, had made 35 arrests.
He said police had intelligence that "some gangs want to come to the carnival and create trouble for us", but that the "chatter" was no different from previous years.
However, some local business owners and residents took no chances, boarding up their properties.
The carnival takes place in the fashionable, and in places affluent, area of west London portrayed in the film "Notting Hill", starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts.
In the past, the event has been marred by shootings, stabbings, drug-dealing and high numbers of arrests, although it has been largely peaceful in recent years.
The carnival has also attracted trouble from rival teenage street gangs, which the government and police have partly blamed for the recent riots.
Inspired by Trinidad's carnival, the Notting Hill event was first held in London in 1964 and has grown into one of the world's biggest, generating tens of millions of pounds for London's economy.
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