Pallbearers carry the coffin of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher as it arrives Tuesday at the Crypt Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft at Parliament in London. Lawmakers will pay their last respects to the Iron Lady on the eve of her ceremonial funeral.
By Tanya Irwin Block News Alliance
LONDON -- A large police presence was already planned for former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's funeral today, even before Monday's deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon.
Scotland Yard says more than 4,000 officers will be deployed, and a police officer will be visible every few yards of the 3-mile procession route, which goes from the Palace of Westminster to St. Paul's Cathedral ahead of the funeral ceremony. Local residents are braced for gridlock in the city and also are expecting a large number of nonviolent protests.
The former prime minister, in office from 1979 to 1990, died after suffering a stroke April 8 at age 87. Mrs. Thatcher, who was both fiscally and socially conservative, was a divisive and controversial leader, said Neil Armson, a lifelong London resident and a self-described Socialist.
"Internationally, she represented the U.K. very, very well," Mr. Armson, 55, said Tuesday while sitting outside a London pub, The Swan, near Hyde Park. "But domestically, if you lived under her regime, it was a pretty hard time."
Although he admits a "grudging respect" for her "political genius," he thinks the elaborate funeral is not something most Britons are happy about. "I'm upset that they are making such a pageant of it," he said. "She should just quietly drift off into the ether."
Another longtime London resident, Simon P. Cross, also expressed dismay at the amount of money being spent on the funeral, which is estimated to cost $12 million to $15 million, including the large police presence. "I think she did a lot for our country -- and she also undid a lot for our country," Mr. Cross said. "Which means she was no better or worse than any other prime minister."
The funeral will be attended by Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, as well as several American dignitaries, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. President Barack Obama is sending two former secretaries of state to lead the U.S. delegation. Others expected to attend include former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who served in the Nixon and Ford administrations.
In a statement, London's metropolitan police commander, Christine Jones, said protests would be allowed. No arrests have been made so far against people whom police suspect of wanting to commit crimes at the funeral, but she said that remained an option. Police said a small number of people planning protests had contacted them, and police urged those wanting to demonstrate to get in touch. "The right to conduct peaceful protest is a tenet of our democracy," Ms. Jones said. "However, that right is qualified, in that protest does not stray into acts of crime or violence or the instigation of crime or violence."
Activists are planning to turn their backs on Mrs. Thatcher's coffin as it passes and also to hurl milk at funeral procession participants, the Daily Mail reported. The milk is aimed at showing disdain for the woman opponents once called the "milk snatcher."