Lockdown London: how the Olympics will turn London into (more of) a police state

In the Guardian, Stephen Graham describes the militarized security that will transform the UK capital into "Lockdown London" for the Olympics. London is set to meet and exceed Beijing for civil liberties violations, violent suppression of dissent, and overwhelming surveillance during the games, from the rule that says you're not allowed to display anti-Olympics posters in your own home to the sniper-toting helicopters hovering over the town. "Security" trade magazines are buoyant about the enormous sums of money the industry stands to take out of "austere" Britain's tax-coffers to buy razor-wire, drones, and water cannons.

In addition to the concentration of sporting talent and global media, the London Olympics will host the biggest mobilisation of military and security forces seen in the UK since the second world war. More troops – around 13,500 – will be deployed than are currently at war in Afghanistan. The growing security force is being estimated at anything between 24,000 and 49,000 in total. Such is the secrecy that no one seems to know for sure.

During the Games an aircraft carrier will dock on the Thames. Surface-to-air missile systems will scan the skies. Unmanned drones, thankfully without lethal missiles, will loiter above the gleaming stadiums and opening and closing ceremonies. RAF Typhoon Eurofighters will fly from RAF Northolt. A thousand armed US diplomatic and FBI agents and 55 dog teams will patrol an Olympic zone partitioned off from the wider city by an 11-mile, £80m, 5,000-volt electric fence.

Beyond these security spectaculars, more stealthy changes are underway. New, punitive and potentially invasive laws such as the London Olympic Games Act 2006 are in force. These legitimise the use of force, potentially by private security companies, to proscribe Occupy-style protests. They also allow Olympic security personnel to deal forcibly with the display of any commercial material that is deemed to challenge the complete management of London as a "clean city" to be branded for the global TV audience wholly by prime corporate sponsors (including McDonald's, Visa and Dow Chemical).

And on top of it all, some of London's public roads will be turned into "priority" roads that are only open to corporate sponsors' vehicles -- off-limits even to the athletes competing in the games (and ambulances).

Olympics 2012 security: welcome to lockdown London

(Image: Policeman with his balaclava over his face, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from bagelmouse's photostream)

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