Police at Eurovision ‘respect right to peaceful protest’

Police at Eurovision ‘respect right to peaceful protest’

Police will “respect the right to peaceful protest” at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, the tactical commander for the event has said.

Merseyside Police is preparing for its largest operation in decades as tens of thousands of music fans descend on the city for this year’s competition, which is being hosted on behalf of Ukraine and culminates with the final on Saturday.

Chief Superintendent Jonathan Davies, the force’s tactical commander for Eurovision 2023, said: “Our strategy is quite clear that we will respect the right to peaceful protest, so we ask anybody who wants to protest about any part of the event to get in touch with us.

“We are keen to discuss it, to talk about it, we will make space for it.

“It’s that early engagement via our protester liaison teams that we really need to put in place.

“There will be some protests here, we’re expecting it, we’re fully engaged with the people who are doing it, and we’re really satisfied with the plans.

“We’ve got proportionate policing plan to make sure they can protest safely without impacting on the integrity of the event, which is for the people of Ukraine. ”

Asked about criticism of the Metropolitan Police, which arrested six anti-monarchy protesters ahead of the coronation, Mr Davies said: “We look at events across the country and how we can learn from them so it’s not for me to criticise other people’s events – what’s important here is that we have a unique event.

“We understand that people want to come and protest, we want them to get engaged, get into the spirit of Eurovision to make it a truly unique event and deliver a safe event for the people of Ukraine and the people of Liverpool.”

He said there was a “detailed intelligence plan” in place and police had been engaging with protesters from groups including Extinction Rebellion.

The police chief added: “We’re really happy with the engagement, we understand what they want, they’re respectful to the event, they’re respectful to the rights of all the other people who want to come and watch the event, so we’re really, really happy with where we are.”

Mr Davies said hosting the event on behalf of Ukraine meant there were extra considerations.

“It’s a real privilege to host it on behalf of Ukraine and they’ve been involved in all the planning processes, but it does bring some unique challenges,” he said.

“So the first of those was cyber. We are used to doing large events but it does bring a cyber element that we’ve been well supported for.

“We’ve got a really strong robust plan which we’re really happy with.

“Like any large-scale operation in the country we’ll receive the usual specialisms, so firearms,  counter-terrorism, all of those things are with us at the moment, and I’m happy we’ve got a really robust plan in place to deal with this event .”

Mr Davies said everyday policing would not be affected by the contest.

He said: “It’s a huge event, most police officers in Merseyside are involved in it.

“We’ve resourced it appropriately and proportionately but we’ve also made sure that we have business as usual going on, so people living in this force area don’t notice any difference in the service they’re getting from Merseyside Police.”