Met Police hand out coronation branded wristbands as protesters arrested
The Metropolitan Police's neutrality has been called into question after its officers handed out wristbands celebrating the coronation of King Charles III.
The ceremonial occasion in central London saw a number of anti-monarchist protesters in central London arrested ahead of the procession, with police taking away placards reading "Not my King".
Among those detained was Graham Smith, leader of the anti-monarchy group Republic, although it is not clear under what charge.
It sparked a fierce debate over police suppressing free speech and the right to peaceful protest, and the Met's wristbands have added fuel to the fire.
"Just when you think today can’t get any weirder," climate activist Paul Powlesland tweeted as he shared a picture of one of the bands.
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Just when you think today can’t get any weirder, uniformed Met Police officers are handing out coronation merchandise to the crowd, with the Met Police logo next to Charles’ coronation emblem. Utterly bizarre use of police funding & undermines the neutrality of the police pic.twitter.com/kkNOWvXeCZ
— Paul Powlesland (@paulpowlesland) May 6, 2023
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"Uniformed Met Police officers are handing out coronation merchandise to the crowd, with the Met Police logo next to Charles’ coronation emblem.
"Utterly bizarre use of police funding & undermines the neutrality of the police."
It is not the first time UK police forces have been accused of wasting taxpayers' money with gestures that bring their neutrality into question.
In January a report by the Telegraph revealed that police forces have spent over £66,000 in public money on LGBT flags, badges, lip balm and rainbow decorations for squad cars.
Commenting on Saturday's arrests, the Met said it seized lock-on devices as it detained four people in St Martin's Lane.
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The force said a further three were arrested on around the Wellington Arch area on suspicion of possessing articles to cause criminal damage.
However it is not clear which protest groups these people belonged to, as the procession was attended by members of both Republic and eco-protesters Just Stop Oil – who said more than 20 of its members were arrested.
In preparation for Saturday's ceremony, Republic told protesters that "we are not here to cause trouble with our fellow citizens", adding: "We have assurances that our right to protest will not be interfered with by the Metropolitan Police".
Human rights protester Peter Tatchell told Yahoo News UK while in the crowd of demonstrators: "The police broke their promise that peaceful anti-monarchy protests would be permitted. They arrested the head of Republic and other protesters, confiscated Republic’s official placards, photographed everyone and erected a huge watchtower in front of the Republic protest so the king would not see us.
"It’s an outrageous abuse of police powers and an attack of freedom of expression. This just reconfirms that the police cannot be trusted.
"We are here to defend the democratic principle that our head of state should not elected by the people based on merit – not inherited and imposed on the British people without our consent.
"We’re also appalled by the huge £100+ million cost of the coronation during a cost of living crisis when people are struggle to put food on the table and over a million are dependent on food banks."
Yahoo News UK has contacted the Metropolitan Police and Republic for comment.