By JAN M. OLSEN (AP)
COPENHAGEN — In Denmark’s biggest security operation since World War II, police are mobilizing thousands of officers and — for the first time — a water cannon for next week’s U.N. climate summit.
Copenhagen police demonstrated the German-made 22-ton vehicle to media Thursday, showcasing it mainly as a beefed-up fire truck that could spray water on burning cars or trash bins if protests get out of hand.
But police spokesman Michael Engell said it was possible to add tear gas to the 1.5 million-gallon (6,000-liter) water tank, implying that the cannon could also be aimed at rioting protesters. Police said they have never before used such a vehicle.
At least 100 world leaders, including President Barack Obama, will converge on the normally tranquil city in the next two weeks to try to forge a new pact against global warming.
Roughly 15,000 delegates have signed up for the conference — and many more protesters are expected to march through the streets of the capital.
Most demonstrations are expected to be peaceful manifestations urging world leaders to craft an ambitious climate agreement, but police say they are ready if things get rowdy.
“We do not want to be at war with anyone,” Copenhagen police operations chief Per Larsen said. “But we will act accordingly if something unacceptable happens. This is not a threat but consumer information.”
Lene Vennits, one of the organizers of a planned demonstration on Dec. 12, criticized the police for deploying a water cannon.
“It sends a signal that the climate summit is about violence,” she told The Associated Press. “We plan to walk with candles on Dec. 12, and it doesn’t mean the city is on fire.”
Still, anarchist and anti-capitalist groups have suggested they will seek confrontations with police. It’s unclear how many of them will show up in Copenhagen.
The Bella Center conference facility on the outskirts of the capital has been turned into a fortress, sealed off by massive concrete blocks and 6-foot-high (2-meter-high) metal fences.
More than half of the country’s 11,000-strong police force will be on the streets of Copenhagen. Police in neighboring countries are lending bomb-sniffing dogs, vans and helicopters.
Denmark also has reactivated border checks that are normally left unattended to allow free movement of people inside the European Union’s passport-free zone.
Authorities have not raised the terror alert level, saying any risk of attacks is connected not to the conference, but to Denmark’s military presence in Afghanistan and lingering resentment over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad first published in a Danish newspaper in 2005.
Besides world leaders, dozens of VIPs are expected in Copenhagen, including Britain’s Prince Charles, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, ex-U.S. Vice President Al Gore, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.