Police ‘prepared’ for July 22 crowds

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Police claimed they were prepared to handle the huge crowds expected in Oslo and other cities around the country on Sunday, when Norwegians will gather to honor the victims and survivors of last summer’s terrorist attacks on July 22. They advised all attending to leave their cars at home and either walk to events or use public transport, especially in Oslo.

An estimated 200,000 persons turned out for a memorial gathering after last year's terrorist attacks. Organizers of Sunday's event on the first anniversary of the attacks are expecting large crowds at Rådhusplassen this year as well. PHOTO: Views and News

They’re predicting as many as 100,000 people will return to Oslo’s Rådhusplassen, the plaza in front of City Hall, for a national memorial concert starting at 8pm on Sunday. As sound checks were carried out on Friday, police were preparing extensive security measures and the re-routing of traffic, also in the adjacent harbour area.

Oslo’s inner harbour next to the plaza will be closed for pleasure boats, while all streets feeding into the plaza will be blocked off, reported newspaper Aften. City bus and tram routes will be altered, with the #12 tram that normally runs over the plaza diverted to Stortingsgata and all busses that normally stop in Vika and at Klingenberg moved over to Abelhaugen across from the Foreign Ministry.

Torstein Stephansen, acting leader of the police’s coordinated operations section, said it may be difficult to find parking all over the city, “so we’re encouraging everyone to use public transport to get into town.” He also advised everyone to allow plenty of time to get to Rådhusplassen and to “be patient.”

Last year's enormous crowd gathered spontaneously. NRK has been advertising the anniversary memorial concert for weeks as they rigged up for the free outdoor event. PHOTO: Views and News

Extra police personnel will be on duty, both plain clothes officers and those in uniform, not only at the concert but elsewhere around town. The concert will be broadcast live on national television channels NRK1, TV2. and TV Norge, featuring Norwegian performers including Mari Boine, deLillos, Tine Thing Helseth, Lillebjørn Nilsen and Marit Larsen among others. NRK wasn’t ruling out an appearance by American rock star Bruce Springsteen, who was in Oslo during the weekend for a concert at Valle Hovin on Saturday.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, members of the royal family and other top government officials will be among those attending the memorial concert on Sunday in addition to tens of thousands of Norwegians who also turned out for an impromptu gathering in the same spot just days after the July 22 attacks last year. That event, featuring mourners carrying roses, attracted an estimated 200,000 people. It also included music by well-known performers and inspirational speeches, as those attending tried to come to grips with the deaths of 77 persons and massive bomb damage to government headquarters.

Police, who were sharply criticized for a lack of preparedness in connection with the terrorist attacks, had to admit on Friday that they still don’t have trained staff to operate police helicopters around the clock. They now have two helicopters but staffing won’t be in place until September 1, reported Aftenposten, and they may not be fully trained until around New Year.

“We had very good response to our ads for the new pilot positions we had,” Ole Vidar Dahl of the Oslo Police District told Aftenposten. “But the selection process took longer than planned. It also has been difficult to get our new pilots freed from earlier work contracts.” Staffing also was short, he conceded, because of summer holidays.

That’s no excuse, retorted Members of Parliament including Jan Bøhler of the Labour Party and Knut Arild Hareide of the Christian Democrats, who expect the police to have round-the-clock staffing for the helicopters as soon as possible.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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