The London Marathon is one of the world’s biggest sporting events and attracts 40,000 runners to the test themselves on the 26-mile route. The marathon takes runners on a course past some of the world’s most iconic landmarks.
The crowds who line the streets play no small part in encouraging runners – people who are running to raise cash for charity and elite athletes alike – around the course.
But the City of London Corporation is considering getting a Public Space Protection Order to help it deal with a “recurring issue of violent disorder and antisocial behaviour” among certain sections of the crowds watching the race.
The problems are so bad they caused one spot at Great Tower Street become “a no-go zone” for spectators who just wanted to watch the race this year, according to police.
They reported that some people were “very drunk or using nitrous oxide – or ‘hippy crack’.”
Eventually, 100 police had to move in to deal with them and “seasoned” public order officers who are used to dealing with “high levels of disorder were taken aback with the level of disorder that they encountered and how quickly it escalated to become a very hostile and dangerous environment,” according to a council report.
The Corporation report said: “This contingent had no real interest in the marathon and made the area, in the words of the CoLP ‘a ‘no-go area for members of the public’ who wanted to watch the marathon.”
The Corporation said the problem involved “large groups getting intoxicated” at Trinity Square – just close to Fenchurch Street Station and Tower Hill which they then used to hop on a Tube and travel elsewhere – and one of the top view points as runners get towards the last three miles of their challenge. The council has worked with venues as well as the organisers to change the sites of crowd control barriers nearby.
This year police horses were also on the spot to deter people getting into trouble. But as the day became more hostile police arrested people for violent disorder, grievous bodily harm, and possession of class A drugs. And a police horse fell over, trapping a police officer, who broke their ankle.
The report outlined that despite the steps taken, there’s been “considerable public disorder” over the last two years.
“The core issue is groups of young adults taking advantage of the marathon as an opportunity to gather in numbers and get intoxicated through drink and drugs. During the day of the marathon this escalates into serious antisocial behaviour and disorder,” according to a City of London report going before the licensing committee.
Now City of London Police has asked the Corporation to put a PSPO in place to prevent problems next year. It would stop public drinking in certain hot spots and would only apply on marathon day. Anyone breaking the rules could be issued with an on-the-spot fine.
People who live and work in the area will have to be asked what they think. Similar orders are already in place in Tower Hamlets and Southwark, which are also on the marathon route. The issue will come before next month’s Court of Common Council meeting.