Coronation arrests: Met chief Sir Mark Rowley backs his officers over claims of ‘heavy handedness’
Scotland Yard chief Sir Mark Rowley on Tuesday claimed officers had foiled a plot to cause “multiple serious injuries” at the King’s Coronation after the force was criticised for heavy-handed tactics.
Met Commissioner Sir Mark said he had become extremely concerned by “rapidly developing” intelligence suggesting some demonstrators had conspired to use rape alarms and loudhailers to cause distress to military horses taking part in the procession from Buckingham Place to Westminster Abbey.
He claimed some “intended to extensively vandalise monuments, throw paint at the procession, and incur on to the route”.
Others posing as stewards for the event had plastic bottles containing white paint and some were in possession of possible lock-on devices, he insisted.
Sir Mark said the threat was so concerning that Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Mayor Sadiq Khan were given late-night briefings on Friday.
Sir Mark said: “Adding to our concerns, military colleagues shared their worries about how some of this disruption would significantly unsettle their 160 strong mounted regiments, with the potential of causing multiple serious injuries and compromising public safety.
“Clearly, this would not only have been unlawful, but also extremely dangerous.
“Officers worked around the clock to try to identify the full criminal network, establish the detail of their plans, and make arrests.”
Scotland Yard made a total of 64 arrests over the weekend, with 52 of these said to be related to concerns people were going to disrupt the Coronation.
However, the force has been accused of wrongly arresting people, with Mr Khan requesting “further clarity” from the Yard saying the right to peaceful protest is an integral part of democracy.
It came as Graham Smith, chief executive of anti-monarchy group Monarchy who was held for 16 hours, said a chief inspector and two other Met officers personally apologised to him over what he called a “disgraceful episode”.
Mr Smith and five others have been told they face no further action after being stopped at 6.40am on Saturday.
Officers arrested the group using new powers under the much-criticised Public Order Act because they believed items found alongside a large number of placards could have been used as “lock-on devices” to cause disruption, the force said.
Sir Mark added: “I must challenge those claiming there was a ‘protest ban’ around the Coronation. This is simply not accurate.”
He also attacked what he described as “ill-informed commentary”, adding: “I want to be absolutely clear - our activity was targeted at those we believed were intent on causing serious disruption and criminality. Serious and reliable intelligence told us that the risks were very real.
“While it is unfortunate that the six people affected by this were unable to join the hundreds of peaceful protestors, I support the officers’ actions in this unique fast moving operational context.”
A minister firmly backed the Met Police’s handling of the coronation and blamed protestors for getting themselves arrested.
Health minister Neil O’Brien argued that the police stopped “silly and irresponsible” demonstrations in London which could have led to people watching the procession being “trampled” by horses if they had been scared by people throwing rape alarms at them.
But former shadow home secretary David Davis, also a Tory MP, tweeted: “I don’t agree with these Republicans, but their right to protest must be protected.
“This is the second time UK police forces have been heavy-handed since the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
“It is time for them to recalibrate their behaviour.”
Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy said that something had “gone wrong” following arrests of six anti-monarchy protesters ahead of the King’s coronation.