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PM backs Met Police over coronation arrests

08 May 2023 5 minute read
An anti monarchy protester being arrested in central London. Photo Labour for a Republic

Rishi Sunak has backed the Metropolitan Police amid accusations that the arrests of protesters were a deliberate attempt to “disrupt and diminish” dissent during the King’s coronation.

The Prime Minister insisted on Monday that officers act independently of government based on “what they think is best” after claims they were cracking down at the behest of politicians.

Graham Smith, chief executive of the anti-monarchy Republic campaign group who was detained on Saturday, accused Scotland Yard of having “every intention” of arresting demonstrators.

The force made 64 arrests on coronation day, with 46 people bailed after being detained on suspicion of causing a public nuisance or breaching the peace.

Mr Sunak backed the force’s efforts during the “dazzling spectacle”, after volunteering at a lunch club during the national Big Help Out drive on the coronation bank holiday.

“The police are operationally independent of Government, they’ll make these decisions based on what they think is best,” he told broadcasters in Hertfordshire.

“Actually I’m grateful to the police and everyone who played a part in ensuring that this weekend has gone so well, so successfully and so safely, that was an extraordinary effort by so many people and I’m grateful to them for all their hard work.”

Public Order Act

Mr Smith raised fresh concerns about the Public Order Act signed into law last week, which tips the balance against protest, including by lowering the definition of “serious disruption”.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer had defended the Met as having got the “balance right” and said arrests were necessary during the “international event on the world stage”.

But Mr Smith told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “That’s a disgraceful suggestion and quite frankly this is a political issue and therefore obviously it’s going to face protest.

“You cannot say that they have to enjoy a party and therefore other people should be arrested.”

He said he was arrested on Saturday unloading placards on the suspicion of being equipped to “lock-on” to an object or building, which the Public Order Act made a jailable offence.

Mr Smith denies this was his intention and believes the Met had lied about their plans, had “every intention” of arresting them and used some unfeasible straps as a “pretext”.

“The whole thing was a deliberate attempt to disrupt and diminish our protest,” he said.

“They stopped us because the law was introduced, rushed in last week, to give them the powers to stop us on any flimsy pretext.

“That law means we no longer in this country have the right to protest, we only have the freedom to protest contingent on the permission of senior police officers and politicians and it’s my view that those senior police officers were under immense pressure from politicians.

“I understand the Labour Party said they wouldn’t repeal this law, which is pretty disgraceful if true, this law needs to be repealed.”

Disproportionate

Labour frontbencher Andrew Gwynne said the Act gave “disproportionate” powers to the police but the party was not committing the party to repealing it if it enters government.

Instead the shadow public health minister told Sky News: “I think the next Labour government will look very carefully at this legislation.”

Mr Gwynne defended the right to protest and suggested revellers supporting the coronation should have drowned out the dissent.

“That would’ve been the appropriate approach, to drown out those that wanted to protest rather than maybe heavy-handed practice that some have suggested may have taken place,” he said.

Ken Marsh, head of the Metropolitan Police Federation representing officers from the rank of constable to chief inspector, said police were acting both lawfully and “impartially”.

“Protesting can take place in this country but it’s the level to which you want to perform that protest that we have to balance and deal with what’s put in front of us impartially. That’s what was done,” he told Today.

Rape alarms

Westminster City Council has raised concerns that women’s safety volunteers were among those arrested after rape alarms were seized.

The Met said it had received intelligence that people were planning to use the devices to disrupt the procession.

Caroline Russell said the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee that she chairs will be questioning the Met over the “worrying” arrests.

The Green politician told Today: “It felt like for someone who was trying to protest, and trying to do it by the book, it was very difficult to understand what the rules were.

“It seems absolutely extraordinary that those people who were volunteering, they were out there handing out flip flops to people who could no longer walk in their high heels because they’d had a bit too much to drink and handing out rape alarms. It just seems extraordinary that they got caught up in the Met’s safety net. How? It just feels very odd.”

In total the Met made 64 arrests during the coronation day.

Four charges have been brought, including over a religiously aggravated public order allegation and class A drugs possession.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has demanded “clarity” from the force’s leaders on the arrests.


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Llyn
Llyn
9 months ago

So suspension of Habeas Corpus as and when, just like in Communist China, is now one of the wonderful Brexit freedoms we all enjoy. I wonder what our plucky free speech champion Andrew RT Davies thinks about this?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago

The PM has several times recently failed to tell the truth, and he does so here…

Vyvyan
Vyvyan
9 months ago

Of course he does; he’s a Tory.

Frank
Frank
9 months ago

The police are once again used to arrest the innocent and protect the privileged while the working man pays for the service. If my house was burgled and Lord Tosspot’s house was burgled guess whose house the police would go to first. Chances are the police would not come to my house at all.

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
9 months ago

No mention of which area the Welsh police were shipped in from?

Mawkernewek
9 months ago

Rishi Sunak can’t have it both ways, now he says its nothing to do with him and the police acted independently, but of course his government’s just given them a nice shiny new Public Order Act to test-drive.

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
9 months ago

Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights: Freedom of assembly and association.
The 52 people arrested should sue the police.

For more information: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/human-rights-act/article-11-freedom-assembly-and-association#:~:text=Article%2011%20protects%20your%20right,another%20association%20or%20voluntary%20group

Last edited 9 months ago by Mr Williams
Llyn
Llyn
9 months ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

The Tories will pull us out the European Convention on Human Rights before long to join Russia and Belarus, egged on by the billionaire foreign owned Tory press who will tell their readers that they don’t need these freedoms as they are un-British. Sadly many plebs will lap up this nonsense.

George Thomas
George Thomas
9 months ago

Police clearly made the calculation than over-zealous policing for one day with criticism was better than missing something, an incident happening and disruption to the service.

Is that the sort of policing we want? I mean, take it out of context of royal family and imagine it’s Eurovision or something. Should we allow people to be arrested and detained for 16 hours for no reason other than the criticism for missing something would be greater than the criticism for abusing their positions?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago

If there had been a real threat out there rounding up those that had announced their intentions would have done nothing to prevent a lethal attack from terrorists…

Marc
Marc
9 months ago

Of course he backs the Met Police, because despite what he says this was discussed and approved at cabinet . The protesters are lucky they didn’t wake up in Rwanda

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