London: A total of 52 arrests were made during the Coronation including the head of the country’s largest anti-monarchy group, a move defended by Scotland Yard as part of its efforts to ensure protests did not become criminal or disruptive.
The Metropolitan Police said on Saturday evening that the arrests were made for offences including affray, public order offences, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance and the people remain in custody. Among them is Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, who was arrested at Trafalgar Square during a #NotMyKing protest against the crowning of King Charles III.
“We absolutely understand public concern following the arrests,” said Met Police Commander Karen Findlay, who led the security operation for Coronation Day.
“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,” she said.
“This depends on the context. The Coronation is a once in a generation event and that is a key consideration in our assessment,” she added.
The Met insisted that despite the arrests a protest involving large numbers did go ahead at Trafalgar Square “with police knowledge and no intervention”.
“Earlier this week we said our tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low and that we would deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining the celebration,” the force said.
It said it took action only on information that protesters were “determined to disrupt the Coronation procession”. This included information that individuals would attempt to deface public monuments with paint, breach barriers and disrupt the official movements.
The police claimed “lock-on devices” – which protesters can use to secure themselves to things like railings – had been seized. Recent changes to the law, passed earlier in the week, made it illegal to prepare to lock-on.
However, the Republic group said officers had “misconstrued” straps meant to secure their signs in place.
“So much for the right to peaceful protest,” it said on Twitter in the wake of the arrests.
Some climate protesters were also among those arrested as part of one of the largest security operations mounted by the Met Police, involving over 11,500 officers on Coronation Day Saturday and a total of 29,000 for the entire long weekend of celebrations.
The Met Police hailed the “magnificent team effort” as thousands of people travelled into central London to watch the procession and mark the historic moment, which the force said went off largely smoothly.