City work crews in Oslo were busy during the night, setting up more heavy flower- and planter boxes along the main boulevard running through the heart of town. The goal is to prevent any terrorists from trying to drive down Karl Johans gate, most of which already is set aside for pedestrians only.
The planter boxes are terror hindrances in disguise. Several have been placed around the Parliament Building (Stortinget) for the past few years. Now, not long after London’s anti-terror expert claimed he shuddered at the lack of security along Karl Johans gate, city politicians responded with seasonally appropriate flowers and plants.
“Oslo is a safe city,” claimed its government leader Raymond Johansen of the Labour Party. “We can’t wall ourselves in because of a fear of terrorism, but we can try to prevent it. That’s the background for why we’re now carrying out some risk-reducing measures in parts of downtown.”
Johanse was among those indirectly chastised by Nick Aldworth of the London Metropolitan Police after he’d been in Oslo to speak at a conference. He was unimpressed by security in the city and let it be known.
Johansen denied his city government was finally acting on anti-terror measures in response to Aldworth’s comments in newspaper VG last week. “We’ve been working on this (planter box) project since the end of August, and it’s not an acute situation,” Johansen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “It’s completely coincidental that his (Aldworth’s) remarks came last week, but they do say something about the seriousness of the situation.”
Johansen said the planter box-barrier project has been enacted in cooperation with the Oslo Police. “We shall reduce the risk of intentional rundowns in the city center, but at the same time we want to have a lively city center,” he told NRK. “Delivery trucks and emergency vehicles will be allowed through, but we think the measures now taken will reduce the risk.”
When Oslo was hit by the attacks of an ultra right-wing terrorist on July 22, 2011, hundreds of thousands of residents responded with impromptu vigils, waving roses and other flowers that later were spread around the city. Karl Johans gate, large public buildings and not least the area in front of the Oslo Cathedral were covered with piles of flowers.
Now flowers are being used once again to respond to a terror threat that Johansen insists is not high. “There is no concrete threat against Oslo,” Johansen told NRK. “At the same time, PST (Norway’s civilian police intelligence unit) is clear that there is a general threat evaluation that makes the largest cities in Norway possible targets of a global terror threat. We have seen what’s happened in cities like Stockholm and, most recently, in New York.”
More heavy planter boxes and benches were due to be laid out around Jernbanetorget (the plaza outside Oslo’s main train station), Lille Grensen and Arbeidergata. Some of the barriers are temporary, others permanent. Rules for delivery truck access are also due to be tightened.