Coronation policing: Metropolitan Police ‘regret’ arresting six people
The Metropolitan Police has expressed “regret” over the arrests of six anti-monarchy protesters ahead of the King’s coronation after being threatened with legal action when no charges were brought.
Republic chief executive Graham Smith claimed that officers visited his home on Monday evening and “apologised” but that he did not accept it.
He has called for a “full inquiry” into who authorised the arrests during the “disgraceful episode” on Saturday.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has backed the Met over the dozens of arrests of protesters amid concerns they were cracking down on dissent at the behest of politicians.
The force made 64 arrests on coronation day, with 46 people bailed after being detained on suspicion of causing a public nuisance or breaching the peace.
But Mr Smith said the eight protesters from Republic detained in London have all been told no charges will be brought against them.
“The speed with which they did this demonstrates they were very quickly aware they had made a very serious error of judgment and there will be action taken again,” he told PA.
“I’m obviously relieved they dropped it so quickly but very angry they even went down this road, robbing people of their liberty for absolutely no reason.
This evening three Met police officers visited my home to hand back my phone and the luggage straps. They apologised while wearing a body cam. I made it clear the apology is not accepted as we will be taking further action. https://t.co/BwPxw2aNx5
— Graham Smith 🇺🇦 🏳️🌈 (@GrahamSmith_) May 8, 2023
“There was no evidence of any ability or intent to commit any offence and they simply decided to arrest us and that is outrageous.”
Republic chief executive Graham Smith was among those detained by officers while unloading placards from a van near Trafalgar Square.
He was arrested on suspicion of being equipped for locking on, an offence introduced under the Public Order Act which took effect last week.
Mr Smith earlier tweeted on Monday that he “will be speaking to lawyers about taking legal action”.
“I also expect a full inquiry into why they repeatedly lied to us and who authorised the arrests,” he added.
Scotland Yard released a lengthy statement explaining why officers arrested the Republic protesters.
The force said it believed items found alongside a large number of placards could be used as “lock on devices”.
“The investigation team have now fully examined the items seized and reviewed the full circumstances of the arrest,” a statement added.
“Those arrested stated the items would be used to secure their placards, and the investigation has been unable to prove intent to use them to lock on and disrupt the event.
“This evening all six have had their bail cancelled and no further action will be taken. 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.”
Speaking to broadcasters after volunteering at a lunch club in Hertfordshire on Monday, the Prime Minister said: “The police are operationally independent of Government, they'll make these 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 added: “No other country in the world could put on such a dazzling spectacle and it was a proud expression of our history, our culture, our tradition and also a reflection of the modern character of our country.
Three women’s personal safety volunteers patrolling Soho and handing out rape alarms were among those detained in the early hours of Coronation day, sparking condemnation from campaigners.
In response, the Met said it had “received intelligence that indicated groups and individuals seeking to disrupt coronation proceedings were planning to use rape alarms to disrupt the procession”.
Four charges have been made by police so far, with one suspect accused of a religiously aggravated public order offence and two others accused of possession of class A drugs.
Another suspect is accused of an offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act – with all four due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court later this month.
Green Party politician Caroline Russell, who chairs the London Assembly's Police and Crime Committee, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the arrests were “really worrying” and would be scrutinised.
“It felt like for someone who was trying to protest, and trying to do it by the book, it was very difficult to understand what the rules were.”
She added: “The Police and Crime Committee, we question the mayor, Mopac (Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime) and the Metropolitan Police, we meet every fortnight, so of course we will be questioning this because I'm sure members of all parties will want to have their questions answered.”
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, defended the actions of the force.
He said: “I don’t doubt [there] were honest individuals handing out rape alarms but we have to be alert to the risks of, for example, alarms getting into the wrong hands.
“We had the power and ability to do what we did — it was necessary to allow what was the biggest event in the world to take place. Many people were dearrested and there was no harm done. Our role is to protect the public, and may I add I think we did it superbly.”