Sorting by


Support for anti-monarchy movement boosted by coronation arrests, campaigners say

The UK’s primary anti-monarchy lobby group says “thousands” of new members have joined after protesters were arrested ahead of King Charles’s coronation.

Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, was among a group of people detained by the Met Police in London on Saturday morning as they were unloading placards from a van.

The group say they had been in regular contact with senior police about their protest for months in advance and that it was intended to be ‘peaceful and lawful’.

But Mr Smith and others were arrested on suspicion of being “equipped for locking on”, a new offence created under the Public Order Act 2023 aimed at preventing people from attaching themselves to objects during demonstrations.

They have since been released under investigation.

Mr Smith told i he understands his arrest was in relation to baggage straps that were being used to hold placards together in the van that police officers claimed could also be used for locking on.

“It was complete nonsense but the police weren’t interested,” he said.

The arrests, which have been covered by news organisations around the world, prompted condemnation from many commentators and appear to have contributed to a bump in support for Republic’s campaign.

Police sieze banners from anti-monarchy group Republic after arresting seven of its members early on Saturday morning (Photo: Labour for a Republic/PA Wire)
Police sieze banners from anti-monarchy group Republic after arresting seven of its members early on Saturday morning (Photo: Labour for a Republic/PA Wire)

An online Crowdfunder which Republic has been running for months in a bid to raise money to buy placards, flags and advertising has seen its coffers surge by more than £20,000 over the bank holiday weekend. At the time of writing it stands at more than £65,000.

“We’ve had thousands of donations and thousands of new members and coverage we couldn’t have dreamed of,” said Mr Smith.

“It’s not something I would have wished to have happened, but if they were trying to stop us impacting the coronation weekend it has spectacularly backfired on them.”

Among dozens of people to have taken to social media to share their decision to officially join Republic’s campaign was Ramsay Clark, who said: “The over-the-top, heavy-handed behaviour of the police towards the Republic and other anti-monarchy protesters was the catalyst. The world was watching.”

Another supporter, Robert Schopen, said he had joined “as a direct result of the Met Police and their heavy-handed blundering arresting and trying to silence legal protest.”

Mr Smith said he believes the events of the weekend will galvanise support for the republican movement going forward.

“It’s riled up an awful lot of people,” he added. “It’s turned people who didn’t really care into republicans.”

Ken Ritchie, secretary of Labour for a Republic, the political arm of the movement, said the arrests have been a “complete own goal” for both police and the Government and that membership of his organisation has grown 10 per cent this week.

Members of the anti-monarchist group Republic stage a protest along the route of the procession ahead of the coronation of King Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort, in London, Saturday, May 6, 2023. (Sebastien Bozon/Pool via AP)
Members of the anti-monarchist group Republic stage a protest along the route of the coronation procession on Saturday (Photo: Sebastien Bozon/AP)

“It’s made our protest much more visible and much more successful than it would have been otherwise,” he told i.

“It would have been a couple of thousand people with placards – it wouldn’t have been much of a news story, now they’ve made it a news story and now it’s not just about the monarchy it’s about civil liberties.”

In a statement issued on Saturday night, Metropolitan Police Commander Karen Findlay acknowledged concerns about the arrest of protesters but defended Scotland Yard’s actions, saying: “Our duty is to do so in a proportionate manner in line with relevant legislation.”

But some politicians have echoed concerns about the arrest with Labour’s Emily Thornberry accusing the Government of having brought in “draconian” laws.

“I think it is a big moment,” said Mr Ritchie.

“Republic as a movement only really started to getting organised about ten years ago, to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee.

“There was an acceptance that calling for a change was always going to be more difficult while we had the Queen [Elizabeth II] on the throne.

“Even if we didn’t like what she did, or didn’t do, there had to be some respect for somebody doing a job well into their nineties.”

“That was always going to change with the coronation. I think we’ve seen a level of reporting in the last six months that we wouldn’t have during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

“Even the BBC have been running stories outlining the arguments for and against.

“While the opinion polls show a majority would still prefer a monarchy to an elected head of state, those numbers are changing.

“I think a lot of people have suddenly decided to join us – perhaps they were not that bothered either way about the monarchy but they are concerned about the basic right to protest and whether the police have gone too far.”

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button