Pressure group Republic brands coronation arrests an 'attack on democracy'

Pressure group Republic brands coronation arrests an 'attack on democracy'

THE HEAD of a pressure group calling for the abolition of Britain's monarchy has called the arrest of six protestors an 'attack on democracy'.

Graham Smith was one of six members of the group Republic to be detained on Saturday morning prior to King Charles' arrival at Westminster Abbey.

The group were arrested on St Martin's Lane as they prepared to unload placards ahead of their planned protest at the Whitehall end of The Mall.

Their arrests came despite the group claiming it had received assurances during earlier meetings with police that their protest could go ahead.

The Met Police said it was aware of concerns over arrests but said it polices protests 'in a proportionate manner in line with relevant legislation'.

Following his release, Smith said the right to protest in Britain 'no longer exists'.


"These arrests are a direct attack on our democracy and the fundamental rights of every person in the country," he said.

"Each and every police officer involved on the ground should hang their heads in shame.

"They showed no judgement, no common sense and no basic decency.

Members of the anti-monarchist group Republic are apprehended by police officers ahead of the coronation (Image: NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images)

"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."

Republic said on Wednesday that the group had held two meetings with the Met as well numerous phone conversations, in which they were 'repeatedly' assured that police had no concerns over their protest.

However, Smith said the arrests before the protest had even begun had eradicated trust in the force.

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

"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?"

He added: "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."

'Duty to intervene'

The arrest of the Republic protestors followed reports that three of Westminster Council's Night Stars volunteers were detained while handing out rape alarms.

The trio were arrested in the Soho area on suspicion of conspiracy to commit public nuisance, with the Met saying they had intelligence that people would use the alarms to disrupt the coronation procession.

In a statement, the Met confirmed they had arrested a total of 52 people on Saturday, including three in Soho on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance and six on St Martin's Lane for the same reason.

Protesters hold up placards ahead of the coronation (Image: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

"We absolutely understand public concern following the arrests we made this morning," said Commander Karen Findlay.

"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.

Police officers film protestors in Trafalgar Square (Image: SUSANNAH IRELAND/AFP via Getty Images)

"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."

Republic said all its members had now been released after more than 16 hours in custody, however they added that their phones had been confiscated.