London police on Saturday arrested six members of the Republic Campaign group before they arrived at an anti-monarchy demonstration. The police invoked the new public order law, which took effect a few days ago: officers may act against peaceful demonstrators “to prevent disruption of major sporting and cultural events”. While the most attention was given to the scene surrounding the coronation on Saturday, these arrests are now a stigma on the day.
“This is something you would expect to see in Moscow, not London,” said the UK director of Human Rights Watch sternly. Labor MP Lisa Nandy said: “There is clearly something wrong with this case.” BBC Breakfast. She noted that maintaining order during coronations is a complex task, but believes further investigation is warranted. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan demanded clarification and noted that the right to demonstrate is essential to democracy.
Police defended the arrests Monday evening. They would have been necessary because the marchers might have carried items with which they could secure themselves on the path of the newly crowned king. Upon further inspection, the police concluded that the charge could not be proven. The police regret that the demonstrators were unable to protest. According to Republic, the six had materials to attach protest banners to.
“If this was an attempt to limit our propaganda, it bounced in their faces,” said Graham Smith, the leader of the republic, who was held for 16 hours. “What happened to us spread to the world.” He says the police apologized to him personally on Monday and he refused. He is thinking of going to court.
Hundreds of people took advantage of the coronation to protest. The six Republicans weren’t the only ones arrested. Police say they arrested 64 people, most of them for allegedly planning to disrupt the ceremony. Four of them remain in detention, and most of them have been released on bail.
Up to twelve months in prison
The new enforcement law allows officers to search protesters to check if they have, for example, glue or padlocks with which they can block roads or railways. Anyone who disrupts “critical infrastructure” can receive up to twelve months in prison.
The law is controversial. At the end of April, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, called on the UK to do so Very annoying law not enter into force. The rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association will be excessively restricted. Criticism also came from conservative ranks on Tuesday. Former minister David Davis, a senior member of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s party, said on Tuesday that he finds parts of the law very vaguely worded.
Sunak defended the law on Monday, which he said should prevent major unrest. He praised the police for making the coronation safe. He refused to comment on the arrest of opponents of the monarchy, noting that the police work independently.
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