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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

UK police express ‘regret’ after arrests of anti-monarchists

Six members of the pressure group Republic, including leader Graham Smith, were detained in central London early on Saturday as they prepared to protest the coronation.

UK police expressed “regret” on Monday that anti-monarchy demonstrators arrested ahead of the coronation of King Charles III were unable to join the protest as planned and said they would not face further action.

Six members of the pressure group Republic, including leader Graham Smith, were detained in central London early on Saturday as they prepared to protest the coronation.

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The capital’s Metropolitan Police also seized hundreds of their placards, Republic said.

They were released late on Saturday, more than 16 hours after being arrested, prompting criticism of the police who defended their tactics.

In a statement late on Monday, the Met further said that the six were arrested “on suspicion of going equipped for locking on”, referring to newly outlawed contraptions used by demonstrators to attach themselves to each other, an object or the ground.

Just days earlier, UK police forces were controversially granted new anti-protest powers by the government following years of disruptive demonstrations by environmental activists.

The changes expanded, among other things, protest-related offences to include locking-on and carrying lock-on devices.

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The Met said in its statement that an investigation had now fully examined the “items seized” and “has been unable to prove intent to use them to lock on and disrupt the event”.

“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, adding that no further action would be taken.

Human Rights Watch has called the arrests “incredibly alarming”.

“This is something you would expect to see in Moscow, not London,” the rights organisation’s UK director, Yasmine Ahmed, said.

Smith said on Twitter that three police officers had come to his home on Monday evening and apologised, adding he did not accept the apology.

Republic, which wants Britain’s constitutional monarchy replaced by an elected head of state, had been vocal about its protest plans.

But Smith had said last week that it had no plans to disrupt the procession.

The Met made 64 arrests on the day of the coronation.