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'Cleaning' the city goes after the Olympics

In Egham, Surrey, miles away from the Olympic heartland of Stratford, local people are complaining that cameras installed on the A30 during the Olympics for the security of athletes staying at the University of London’s Royal Holloway College will be retained. The council at Runnymede, famous as the home of Magna Carta, has claimed ‘strategic’ reasons for retaining CCTV cameras stating that there is no need for a new planning application as the cameras are covered by permitted development legislation and that "The impact caused by the height of the cameras and poles is greatly outweighed by the advantages of retaining the cameras and their ability to support our CCTV work and the Surrey Police... in this strategic location."

Others, including local business people, disagree. Meher Oliaji, of Egham Chamber of Commerce, said: "It is a mistake. We think it is a retrospective justification for a decision that was made without being thought through. It isn't the sort of country we want to live in. It's the mentality of a police state."

The Campaign to Protect Rural England considered having five cameras on a short stretch of road, three of which were in the green belt, was wholly disproportionate. It said: "Now the torch that was carried through Egham has been placed in Chertsey Museum, these intrusive cameras are Egham's only Olympic legacy.”

In London during the months leading up to the Olympics mainline stations began to be patrolled by armed police. This happened, as Christian Wolmar complained, without any discussion or even public announcement. The Olympics provided excellent cover for the extension of this kind of policing. Since the end of the Olympics people have tweeted that they now see these armed police at St Pancras moving down into the Underground station.

In Stratford and Leytonstone, dispersal zones were created during the Olympics, which allowed the police to move on two or more people they consider represent some kind of threat to public order. These zones were extended into the post-Olympics period, although the zone in Stratford was modified to cover the West Ham Lane area rather than the immediate vicinity of the Olympic Park. The police stated of course that these extensions were nothing to do with the Olympics. Whether or not that is so the fact of the matter is events like the Olympics provide the opportunity for these kinds of actions to be tried out or put into effect on a larger scale to create what Chris Jones of Statewatch notes the authorities 'chillingly' refer to as a ‘clean city’.

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