Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley defends officers who policed coronation

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  • May 9, 2023
  • Comments Off on Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley defends officers who policed coronation
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The head of London‘s Metropolitan Police has defended the force arresting six anti-monarchists protesting the coronation of King Charles.

Officers claimed it was their duty to arrest 52 people, including the leader of Republic, on Saturday as preventing disruption outweighed the right to protest.

Police arrested six people using new powers from a bill that restricts protests that came into force days before the coronation.

But while the arrests were ‘unfortunate’, Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has defended the coronation policing and said he supports the officers’ actions.

He said that the right to protest – which is enshrined in the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly as well as the European Convention of human rights – is ‘limited’.

‘Protest is an important right in any democracy but it is limited and has to be carefully balanced alongside consideration for the rights of others so they too can go about their normal business – in this case participating in a once-in-a-generation event,’ Sir Mark said.

‘While we said that our tolerance for disruption of the Coronation celebrations was low, it was not zero. I must challenge those claiming there was a “protest ban” around the Coronation. This is simply not accurate,’ he added.

He claimed police had received intelligence that people planned to use rape alarms and loud hailers to disrupt the coronation, ‘extensively vandalise monuments’ and ‘throw paint at the procession’.

‘I can report that we found people in possession of possible lock-on devices and people that appeared to be purporting to be stewards of the event in possession of plastic bottles containing white paint which we believe were specifically to be used to criminally disrupt the procession and resulted in arrests for going equipped to commit criminal damage,’ Sir Mark said.

Sir Mark said no further action will be taken against the six Republic protesters arrested hours before the coronation kicked off.

‘Having now reviewed the evidence and potential lines of enquiry we do not judge that we will be able to prove criminal intent beyond all reasonable doubt,’ Sir Mark said.

‘While it is unfortunate that the six people affected by this were unable to join the hundreds of peaceful protestors, I support the officers’ actions in this unique fast-moving operational context.’

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also defended the policing today, part of ‘Operation Golden Orb’.

‘With regard to protest, of course, people have the right to protest freely but peacefully, but it is also right that people have the ability to go about their day-to-day lives without facing serious disruption,’ he told reporters in Southampton today.

‘What the government has done is give the police the powers that they need to tackle instances of serious disruption to people’s lives.’

Health minister Neil O’Brien said officers ‘did a pretty good job’, telling Sky News: ‘I’m sure that sometimes the police don’t get every single decision they make right because no-one can make every single decision right every single time.

‘But overall they made the coronation go off really smoothly.’

Ant-monarchy protesters congregated in Trafalgar Square next to the bronze statue of King Charles I, who was beheaded in 1649, Saturday morning.

The Met accused six members of Republic of planning to ‘seriously disrupt’ the coronation, pointing to alleged ‘intelligence’ it had received.

Officers plundered the Republic group’s van, parked close to but not in the restricted zone near the procession route, and accused them of planning to ‘lock on’.

This is when someone fixes themselves to an object or building, often with super glue or chains, to create an immovable obstacle.

Under the freshly-passed 2023 Public Order Act, this could land someone with six months behind bars.

The Met said it arrested 64 people on Saturday. Most were arrests for public order offences, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. 

The sweeping detentions were described by human rights groups and other anti-monarchy pressure groups as heavy-handed.

Yasmine Ahmed, the director of the UK wing of Human Rights Watch, tweeted: ‘People are being arrested on the streets of London for peacefully protesting against the monarchy.

All the while people are being arrested on the streets of London for peacefully protesting against the monarchy. @RishiSunak ppl in 🇬🇧 also take pride in our democracy & democratic rights. These are scenes you’d expect to see in Russia not the UK. It’s disgraceful not dazzling!

— Yasmine Ahmed (@YasmineAhmed001) May 6, 2023

‘These are scenes you’d expect to see in Russia not the UK. It’s disgraceful not dazzling!’

The Met said yesterday that it ‘regrets’ arresting the six Republic demonstrators.

‘We regret that those six people arrested were unable to join the wider group of protesters in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere on the procession route,’ it said.

Republic chief executive Graham Smith, among those arrested, said he had received an apology from the city authorities.

‘They seemed rather embarrassed, to be honest,’ Smith told reporters.

‘I said for the record I won’t accept the apology. We have a lot of questions to answer and we will be taking action.’

Smith said he had spent months consulting with the Met about Republic’s lawful protesting plans yet the arresting officer told him: ‘Having meetings doesn’t mean you’re not planning to disrupt the coronation.’

This is untrue. They were informed at the time and the arresting officer said “having meetings doesn’t mean you’re not planning to disrupt the coronation.”

— Graham Smith 🇺🇦 🏳️‍🌈 (@GrahamSmith_) May 8, 2023

He tweeted that police found luggage straps inside the van; Republic stressed how it was ‘not physically possible to “lock on” with them and was going to use them to secure placards.

Responding to the Met’s insistence that it was not out to ‘prevent protest’, Smith said: ‘This is clearly untrue and we were prevented from protesting.

‘I found it remarkably difficult to protest from inside a cell.’

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