London’s Metropolitan Police is facing criticism for the tactical arrests of peaceful protesters during the coronation of King Charles III. Members of the Republic campaign group were arrested and held for 15 hours without charge while unloading placards, despite having arranged speeches with the Mets blessing. Green councillor Caroline Russell, who is also a London Assembly member, said the police were targeting and arresting people before they had even reached the protest, adding that these tactics are crushing the right to peaceful protest.
Police criticised for using new powers
The arrests were made using new powers granted under the controversial Public Order Act, which has come under fire for curbing the right to peaceful protest. Critics argue that the Act gives the police excessive power to arrest peaceful protesters before they have even had a chance to express their views. Protesters have long argued that peaceful demonstration is a fundamental right that should be protected.
Organisers caught off-guard by police action
Organisers of the protest have criticised the police for catching them off-guard. Republic had arranged speeches from Labour MP Clive Lewis, Republics chief executive Graham Smith and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell in the Square with the Mets blessing. However, metal security fences with entry points guarded by private security staff were erected without warning, and organisers were not allowed to follow the plans they had agreed to.
Apology from the Met
The Met Police has since apologised for the arrests of six campaigners and expressed regret. However, critics argue that the police need to be held accountable for their heavy-handed tactics and the new powers granted under the Public Order Act that they are using to stifle peaceful protest.
Despite the arrests and heavy-handed policing, anti-monarchy demonstrators regrouped outside the National Gallery and marched along Piccadilly, decked in yellow, while monarchists and republicans spent the day in good natured discussion, according to those who were there. It remains to be seen whether the criticism of the Mets tactics will lead to a change in the way peaceful protests are policed in the future.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Who is Caroline Russell?Caroline Russell is a Green Party politician in the United Kingdom. She is a councillor for the London Borough of Islington and a member of the London Assembly, where she represents the North East constituency.
What is the Public Order Act?The Public Order Act is a UK law that regulates public assemblies and processions, and allows the police to impose conditions on them. It has been controversial because it can be used to restrict the right to protest.
Who is Sir Mark Rowley?Sir Mark Rowley is a retired British police officer who served as the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police from 2014 to 2018. He was responsible for counter-terrorism and national security, among other areas.
What is Republic?Republic is a UK organization that campaigns for the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a democratic republic. It was founded in 1983 and advocates for a written constitution, an elected head of state, and an end to royal privileges.