The funeral of the only monarch that most Brits have known involves the largest security operation London has ever seen.
Mayor Sadiq Khan says Monday’s state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II is an “unprecedented” security challenge, with hundreds of thousands packing in central London and a list of 500 funeral guests. kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers and other leaders from all over the world.
“It’s been decades since so many world leaders were in one place,” Khan said. “This is unprecedented … in relation to the various things we are juggling.”
“There may be bad people who want to cause harm to individuals or some of our world leaders,” Khan told The Associated Press. “So we are working hard – the police, the security services and many, many others – to make sure this state funeral is as successful as possible.”
Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Stuart Cundy said the “extremely complex” police operation is the largest in the history of the London military, surpassing the 2012 London Olympics.
More than 10,000 police officers will be on duty Monday, with London bobbies complemented by reinforcements from all 43 British police forces. Hundreds of volunteer marshals and members of the armed forces will also act as stewards along the processional route.
They are just the most visible part of a security operation conducted by a high-tech control center near Lambeth Bridge, not far from Parliament.
Street drains and garbage cans are searched and sealed. On Monday there will be police officers on the rooftops, sniffer dogs on the streets, naval officers on the River Thames and police on horseback.
Drones flying over central London have been temporarily banned and Heathrow Airport is blocking dozens of flights so aircraft noise doesn’t disturb the funeral service.
Authorities face the challenge of keeping 500 world leaders safe, without ruffling too many diplomatic feathers. Presidents, prime ministers and royalty will gather off-site before being taken by bus to the abbey, though an exception is made for US President Joe Biden, who is expected to arrive in his armored limo, known as The Beast.
Another challenge is the sheer size of the crowd that is expected to gather around Westminster Abbey and along the way the coffin will travel after the funeral, past Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park. From there it will be taken in a hearse approximately 20 miles (32 kilometers) to Windsor, where an additional 2,000 police officers will be on duty.
The queen is expected to be buried in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle along with her husband, Prince Philip, who died last year at the age of 99.
Police are deploying more than 22 miles (36 kilometers) of barriers in central London to control crowds, and transport chiefs are bracing themselves for overcrowded stations, buses and the tube as 1 million people flood the ceremonial heart of London. The subways will run later than normal, and train companies are adding extra services to help bring people home.
While many will mourn the queen, support for the monarchy is far from universal. Police have already drawn criticism for the arrest of several people who organized peaceful protests during the events related to the queen’s death and the rise to power of King Charles III.
Cundy said it was made clear to officers that “people have the right to protest.”
“Our response here in London will be proportionate, balanced and officers will only act where absolutely necessary,” he said.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said the goal was to keep the event safe “and try to do it as discreetly as possible, because this is obviously a solemn occasion.”
Westminster Dean David Hoyle, who will conduct the funeral service at the 900-year-old abbey, said preparations are progressing smoothly, despite the occasional security issue.
“There was a wonderful time when I had flower organizers waiting in the abbey, and no flowers, because, rightly so, the police didn’t recognize what the van was and the flowers were sent back,” he said.
Follow Queen Elizabeth II’s AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii