King Charles Coronation: Republic protesters arrested by police
The Metropolitan Police were aware of much of the detail of Republic’s planned protests at King Charles’s Coronation and did not raise “a single concern”, the activist group’s CEO Graham Smith told MPs on Wednesday. He said the force was well aware of their intention to protest, but did admit he had not given them the heads-up that “heavy duty” luggage straps would be used. He insisted these were not intended to be used to lock on protesters. In damning comments, Mr Smith said the arrests had “all the hallmarks” of being predetermined.
Speaking at the Home Affairs Select Committee hearing, Mr Smith described his arrest on the morning of the Coronation as a “traumatic experience” and told MPs that Republic “never had any intention” of disrupting King Charles’s big day.
He said he had numerous meetings and exchanges with police in the months leading up to the event setting out the group’s plans to use placards, amplifiers and megaphones on the day – which has fast become a typical feature of royal engagements undertaken by the King and Queen. Mr Smith said he had also given Scotland Yard a map about where the protesters would be positioned.
“We gave them every piece of information we possible could,” he said. “It is possible that the occasional tiny minutia might have slipped through and not been communicated but they were very clear with us that they did not have a single concern about any of the things we had told them we were going to do.’
Mr Smith added: “We never had any intention of doing anything which even came close to falling outside of the law. And claims that they had intelligence cannot possibly be true. Either they are being dishonest or they are making a very serious error.
“Because you cannot have intelligence relating to Republic because there was not a single email, text message or conversation, fleeting remark or anything at all that would suggest we had any intention of doing anything unlawful or disruptive.”
Mr Smith said that Republic has a history of peaceful protests and made it clear to the Met that this was the approach they would take at the Coronation.
He said that the police did not express concern about Republic’s plans until the night before, adding: “They [police] were abundantly clear that they had absolutely no concerns about any of our plans whatsoever, right up until Friday 5 May.”
The issue of luggage straps then came up, with Mr Smith insisting that these were a last-minute addition and their use was not intended to be disruptive.
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Asked whether he had told the Met about the use of luggage straps, he told MPs: “No, because we hadn’t realised until we had them delivered a few days earlier that they are quite cumbersome to move.
“I simply went on Amazon, found the first straps I saw, picked them mainly because they were yellow and matched everything else we were carrying and threw them in the van, still in the packaging.”
He added that the straps, being long and easy to cut, said they were not heavy duty and were not intended to lock on any members of the group – something that the police feared.
Later on in the hearing, Mr Smith claimed that the police action seen on the day of the Coronation had “all the hallmarks” of being predetermined.
At the hearing, the Met Police denied that they were put under political pressure to crack down on Coronation protestors.
Metropolitan Police Temporary Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist told MPs: “I felt under no pressure politically, I felt pressure to deliver a safe and secure operation, but that was because of the fact that it was a once-in-a-lifetime event for so many people and there would be hundreds of thousands of people in London to celebrate it, and also and importantly, this was the biggest protection operation we have ever run.”
Six members of Republic were arrested under the sweeping Public Order Act, brought in days before the Coronation.
They were held under suspicion of going equipped to “lock-on” – a measure protesters use to make it harder for police to move them – but later released without charge.
In total, 64 arrests were made in central London on the day of the King’s Coronation.
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