Police ‘regret’ arresting anti-monarchy protesters ahead of coronation

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London: The Metropolitan Police has expressed “regret” over its arrest of six anti-monarchy protesters ahead of the King’s coronation, after deciding that no charges would be brought against them.

The territorial police force responsible for law enforcement in Greater London said on Monday evening (UK time) that the activists from Republic, a group that campaigns for the abolition of the monarchy, would not face charges after they were detained under controversial new anti-protest powers rushed into law ahead of the coronation.

Police arrest protesters near the King’s procession on Saturday.Credit: Getty Images

The group, including Republic chief executive Graham Smith, was detained on Saturday morning ahead of the historic royal procession through London while unloading placards from a van close to the coronation procession route.

The arrests were said to have been made despite a series of meetings and agreements between Republic and Scotland Yard relating to the protest, which was to take place at the point where Whitehall meets The Mall.

Police were criticised by civil liberties groups after detaining 64 people for offences including affray and breach of the peace during the coronation. Many of them appeared to have been protesting peacefully and holding signs for groups including Just Stop Oil. The Met said that it had been determined to make sure no disruption to the event occurred.

Similar incidents led to arrests following the death of Elizabeth II in September last year, where a woman in Edinburgh holding a sign reading “F— imperialism, abolish the monarchy” was charged with a breach of the peace while another woman was moved from the gates of parliament while carrying a “Not my king” sign.

Members of the anti-monarchist group Republic staged a protest along the procession route ahead of the coronation of King Charles.Credit: AP

In a statement, the force said: “We regret that those six people arrested were unable to join the wider group of protesters in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere on the procession route.”

It also claimed it was “not clear at the time” that the group had been engaging with police relating to the protest, adding: “The Protest Liaison Team were not the arresting officers nor were they present at the time of the arrest.”

“This has been a disgraceful episode, and we will be speaking to lawyers about taking legal action,” Smith said.

“The speed with which the Met backed down shows they had badly misjudged the situation. We will certainly be pursuing the matter further.”

The Met has insisted “it was not our intention to prevent” protest at the coronation and “any suggestion all protest was prohibited is not correct.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak supported police amid criticism of the arrests of protesters during the King’s coronation, saying they were operationally independent of government and made decisions “based on what they think is best”.

“Actually, I’m grateful to the police and everyone who played a part in ensuring that this weekend has gone so well, so successfully and so safely,” he said. “That was an extraordinary effort by so many people and I’m grateful to them for all their hard work.”

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