UPDATE: Met Police regret over anti-monarchy arrests

UPDATE: Met Police regret over anti-monarchy arrests

Met Police regret over anti-monarchy arrests Credit: RepublicStaff/Twitter

UPDATED: May 9, 2023, at 10:30 pm

The Metropolitan Police has admitted regret over the arrests of anti-monarchy protestors at the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday, May 6, with the leader of the Republic group Graham Smith saying that he and others were released without charge. 

Smith has called for a full enquiry into the police’s implementation of the Public Order Bill, which has been seen by some as a way of curbing peaceful protest in the UK.

Although the reported number of detentions yesterday was much higher, the Met Police spoke today of only 6 arrests with all 6 having their bail cancelled today.

Graham Smith described how many of the protesters were detained for having the equipment to ‘lock on’ – to attach themselves to public property as described in the Public Order Bill – despite the fact that Mr Smith had apparently clearly described the group’s intentions, which didn’t include this action.

Smith says as reported in Sky News, that there will be action taken against the police as: “There was no evidence of any ability or intent to commit any offence and they simply decided to arrest us and that is outrageous.”

Other protesters claimed that they had been whisked from their positions just in time for the Royal carriage to pass, seemingly so the new King couldn’t see their placards. They had had their pockets searched by police with no clear motive.

Activist Peter Tatchell was interviewed on Talk TV, who said: “Activist Peter Tatchell accuses the Met Police of making a series of false “and I would suggest possibly even malicious” allegations against Republic anti-monarchist campaigners.”

Others, including Howard Beckett of the Unite union, accused Labour leader Keir Starmer of not standing up strongly enough against the Public Order Bill on Twitter saying:

“Keir Starmer says the Tory policing bill that criminalises peaceful protest should be allowed to “bed in” and that he won’t repeal it. Servile.” To this, Graham Smith replied: “The police gave me 16 hours to ‘bed in’. Is Starmer ok with that too?” 

But others refuted what Beckett had said, claiming that Starmer would back the continued right to peaceful protests as seen below tweeted by Jake.

We will wait to see what comes next for Republic and the new Public Order Bill, as more and more people call for an inquiry into the police’s behaviour over the coronation weekend.

UPDATED: May 8, 2023, at 6:35 pm

Graham Smith, leader of the anti-monarchist group Republic, was held by police for 16 hours on Saturday, May 6 along with 51 others protesting at the coronation. The group are considering legal action against the Met Police.

Having engaged with the police before the event and being told that the police had no concerns over their proposed protests, the protesters were alarmed to find themselves arrested with little explanation as to why.

On Saturday morning, on the day of the coronation, they were detained and their placards seized.  Channel 4 News, posting on Twitter, quoted Mr Smith as saying:

“If you are only allowed to do protest which has no impact, that’s no protest at all.” Channel 4 News added that: “Graham Smith, leader of anti-monarchist group Republic, fears a crackdown on peaceful protests after coronation day arrests.”

Graham Smith said that about 40 or 50 officers descended on the group, citing the new Public Order Bill and its intolerance of protesters who ‘lock on’ – in other words, attach themselves to public property to cause an obstruction – and even those deemed ‘equipped to lock on’.

Smith said that they have discussed their protest plans with the police over a period of months and were told that the police had no problem with their proposal. They had no plans or equipment to lock on that day.

When quizzed over his next move, Smith said that the group were only out on bail but spoke of the large amount of support from the public and from legal professionals that they have received. The group will now wait to see what the Met Police does next before they proceed.

Smith said their options were legal action and more protest. Described by some commentators as a ‘totalitarian crackdown’ and ‘something you expect to see in Russia’, the actions of the Police on Saturday are certainly cause for concern in a freedom-loving and supposedly democratic country such as the UK.

May 7, 2023, at 7:51 pm

British Police have been accused of attacking the right to peaceful protest in the UK, with arrests of anti-monarchy protesters on Saturday, May 6, during coronation celebrations.

Some have accused the UK of inching towards being a police state as the right to peaceful protest seemed somewhat curbed at this weekend’s coronation event.

Peter Tatchell posted a video on Twitter writing: “Police arrest peaceful antimonarchy protesters & have erected giant barriers to obscure pro-republic banners. Right to freely protest suppressed. Shame!”

In the video, he mentions the arrest of Graham Smith, head of the anti-monarchy group Republic. Graham Smith, who was arrested alongside fellow protesters, had this to say on Twitter after his release from police custody:

“I’m now out of the police station. Still waiting for my colleagues. Make no mistake. There is no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK. I have been told many times the monarch is there to defend our freedoms. Now our freedoms are under attack in his name.”

Although Smith’s anti-monarchy group had discussed their plans with the police prior to the protests, 52 arrests were made over the coronation weekend with police citing offences such as affray, public order offences, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance, as reported in the Guardian.

Green Party MP and ex-leader Caroline Lucas said on Twitter, arguing that in a democracy the right to protest should be inalienable:

“Whatever your views on monarchy, arrest of anti-royalist campaigners for exercising right to peaceful protest is chilling. Many of us warned about exactly this when govt rushed through the illiberal public order bill. This is not what democracy looks like”.

The Public Order Bill was introduced by the current UK Conservative government on May 3, 2023, and focuses heavily on avoiding disruption to everyday life. It looks to target serial disruptors and also to increase police powers, notably in London, to set specific protest conditions on specific events.

The bill looks to stop people ‘locking on’, meaning to attach themselves to public property using glue or handcuffs. It also increases stop and search, with penalties for those carrying the necessary equipment to show intent to ‘lock on’.

Some will argue that the public’s power to protest has been diminished by such laws, while some will be happier for a lack of disruption to their everyday life.

We still must question if an arrest made without a reasonable explanation is an attack on our freedoms. Whatever you’re position on the monarchy, the question remains whether you will be prevented from standing up for your cause if and when it is threatened.

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Written by

David Laycock

Dave Laycock has always written. Poems, songs, essays, academic papers as well as newspaper articles; the written word has always held a great fascination for him and he is never happier than when being creative. From a musical background, Dave has travelled the world performing and also examining for a British music exam board. He also writes, produces and performs and records music. All this aside, he is currently fully focussed on his journalism and can’t wait to share more stories from around the world and beyond.