Volunteers arrested before coronation ‘were wearing vests with Met Police logo’

Police arrested volunteers ahead of the coronation despite a direct partnership between their organisation and the Metropolitan Police, with the force’s logo displayed on their jackets.

Suzie Melvin, one of three volunteers for Westminster Council safety scheme Night Stars who was detained ahead of the coronation, told MPs that the police officer who arrested her stated they were “specifically looking” for people from her organisation.

She appeared to suggest it could have been linked to the volunteers carrying rape alarms as part of an “anti-spiking kit” they hand out to people enjoying a night out.

There had been reports in the lead-up to the ceremony at Westminster Abbey that demonstrators could set off rape alarms and throw them at horses involved in the coronation procession in an attempt to disrupt the event.

Dame Diana Johnson, the Labour chairwoman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, which Ms Melvin was giving evidence to, said she was a “bit speechless” after hearing Ms Melvin’s account of being arrested.

The committee, which saw its session on Wednesday disrupted by Just Stop Oil protesters, is currently investigating the police handling of protests leading up to the coronation.

After being approached by police who wanted to stop and search the Night Stars volunteers during their patrol in Soho, Ms Melvin said she and colleagues showed them emails and leaflets from Westminster City Council and the Night Stars website.

Ms Melvin said they pointed to the high-visibility vests they were wearing which “do display the Met Police logo as well because we are in partnership with the Met”.

Ms Melvin said she gave the arresting officers the names of Met Police colleagues who she knew from volunteering in Soho but told MPs she did not think any contact was made to verify their identity and roles.

King Charles III coronation
MPs are investigating the way police handled coronation protests (Justin Tallis/PA)

She told the committee: “We did the best that we could to try and explain who we were to the officers.

“Then they also searched the church we base ourselves out of.

“We were told we were going to be arrested.

“We were then taken in police vans to Walworth police station where we were held. I was interviewed at approximately 1pm the following day and were released a little bit after 4pm on Saturday May 6.”

Ms Melvin later told the cross-party panel of MPs: “I fully accept it was a challenging situation for the police.

“I was informed by the officer who arrested me that they were specifically looking for the Night Stars and they had been told where we were going to be.”

Despite carrying rape alarms, Ms Melvin said neither she nor one of her colleagues had ever handed such a device out to the public.

Also giving evidence was Graham Smith, chief executive of anti-monarchy group Republic, who was detained for 16 hours on the day of the crowning of the King after officers deemed that straps in his organisation’s van could be used to “lock on” — a tactic used in recent years by some environmental protesters to tie themselves to a protest point.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Home Affairs Committee chairwoman Dame Diana Johnson said Suzie Melvin’s arrest account had left her speechless (House of Commons/PA)

Mr Smith was one of six Republic members who were the first people to be arrested under the sweeping Public Order Act, brought in days before the coronation.

He told MPs that the arrests came despite Republic having written to the Met in January and held meetings about the details of their protests since February.

The republican said his group had set out how many placards his protest group would be bringing, what they would say on them, confirmed they would have amplifiers and megaphones with them and issued officers with maps detailing where the demonstrations would be located.

“We gave them every piece of information we possibly could,” Mr Smith said.

“We never had any intention of doing anything which even came close to falling outside of the law. And claims that they had intelligence cannot possibly be true. Either they are being dishonest or they are making a very serious error.”

He later told the panel that he was stopped from calling a police liaison officer when he was arrested, even after naming a superintendent he had held a meeting with prior to the coronation demonstration.