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We’ll protest wherever King Charles goes from now on, Republic leader vows after arrest

The head of an anti-monarchy group has vowed to continue protesting against King Charles and his son Prince William “wherever” they go after he was arrested ahead of the coronation.

Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, was among a group of people detained by the Met Police while unloading placards from a van in central London at around 7.45am on Saturday close to the coronation route.

It has not yet been specified what criminal offence Mr Smith was alleged to have committed, but the Met later said 52 people were detained in total on Saturday over offences including breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.

The anti-monarchy protesters, wearing T-shirts with the slogan Not My King, were handcuffed and put into the back of a police van before being taken to a station in Walworth, south London, for questioning.

Republic staff said those arrested had their phones confiscated and were finally released late on Saturday night after more than 16 hours in custody.

In a statement released on Sunday, Mr Smith said the planned protest was “peaceful and lawful” and called the arrests “a direct attack on our democracy and the fundamental rights of every person in the country”.

“Each and every police officer involved on the ground should hang their heads in shame,” he said.

“They showed no judgement, no common sense and no basic decency.”

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 protest along the coronation procession route in London on Saturday 6 May (Photo: Sebastien Bozon/AP)

“This was a heavy-handed action which had the appearance of a pre-determined arrest that would have occurred regardless of the evidence or our actions.

“The right to protest peacefully in the UK no longer exists. Instead we have a freedom to protest that is contingent on political decisions made by ministers and senior police officers.”

Labour politicians have expressed concern at the arrests of protesters, suggesting they were the result of the Government having introduced “draconian” new laws.

Labour’s shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry, told BBC Politics London: “Against a backdrop of the law having recently changed when it comes to public protests and it being so unclear as to what it is that the law now is, or so subjective.

“Clearly if mistakes have been made we need to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

But Culture Secretary, Lucy Frazer, denied claims that police went too far and suggested that failing to crack down on protests could have raised national security questions.

Mr Smith said his group Republic had been in dialogue with the Met Police ahead of the coronation in a bid to ensure it would remain lawful.

“These arrests have also destroyed whatever trust might have existed between peaceful protesters and the Metropolitan Police,” he said.

Letters were sent to the Home Office to the campaign group Republic, containing a not-so-subtle threat about what would happen if they tried to make their voice heard this week (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Letters were sent from the Home Office to the campaign group Republic, containing a not-so-subtle threat about what would happen if they tried to make their voice heard this week (Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

“What is the point in being open and candid with the police, working with their liaison officers and meeting senior commanders, if all their promises and undertakings turn out to be a lie?

“It is notable that King Charles has said nothing about these arrests. Rather than defend our liberty and values he is content celebrating his anointment as monarch while citizens are locked up. What is the point of a head of state who will say nothing and do nothing to defend the people?”

“These arrests were not about protecting people from harm, but about protecting the King from embarrassment.

“It was the state wanting to stamp down dissent in order to present an image of a grateful and consenting public at the time of the coronation.”

In a statement issued last night, the Met said it “understood” public concern about the arrests but suggested it had acted more robustly than it would have usually due to the “context” of the coronation.

Commander Karen Findlay said: “Protest is lawful and it can be disruptive. We have policed numerous protests without intervention in the build-up to the Coronation, and during it.

“Our duty is to do so in a proportionate manner in line with relevant legislation. We also have a duty to intervene when protest becomes criminal and may cause serious disruption.

“This depends on the context. The coronation is a once in a generation event and that is a key consideration in our assessment.

“A protest involving large numbers has gone ahead today with police knowledge and no intervention.”

Mr Smith vowed that Republic will continue its protests despite Saturday’s arrests.

“We will not be deterred from further protest,” he added.

“We will protest on Trafalgar Square, we will protest on The Mall, outside Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace.

“We will protest outside Downing Street and parliament, in Windsor and around the UK. As much as possible we will continue to protest wherever Charles goes, wherever William goes.

“We will continue to protest with one simple message: Charles is not our king, it is time to abolish the monarchy.”

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