...By Henry George for TDPel Media.
Dozens of people, including the head of the anti-monarchy group Republic, Graham Smith, were arrested by the Metropolitan Police in London on Coronation Day.
The group had planned to hold a peaceful protest, but the police claimed that they were intent on causing a public nuisance.
The police have been accused of acting heavy-handedly and infringing upon the right to peaceful protest.
Smith called the arrests a “direct attack on our democracy and the fundamental rights of every person in the country”.
He further accused the police officers of lacking common sense and decency in their actions.
Smith also stated that the right to protest peacefully in the UK “no longer exists”.
Police Defend Their Actions
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer defended the police’s actions, arguing that they had successfully managed to balance the right to protest with the enjoyment of the Coronation festivities.
She stated that the police had to consider the context of the event and that they had taken national security implications into account.
She also defended the use of the controversial Public Order Act, which imposes fines and imprisonment for protesters who block roads or carry objects with the intention of “locking on”.
New Powers Concern Protesters
The Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader, Daisy Cooper, expressed concerns about the Conservative government’s new wide-ranging powers to control protests, stating that they had not enshrined a legal duty on the police to facilitate peaceful protest.
Meanwhile, Labour frontbencher Wes Streeting emphasised the importance of police accountability in ensuring that the concerns raised by protesters are addressed.
Metropolitan Police Commander Karen Findlay, on the other hand, defended the police’s actions and claimed that they had acted in line with relevant legislation.
The police claimed that they had received information that protesters were determined to disrupt the Coronation Day celebrations by defacing public monuments with paint, breaching barriers, and disrupting official movements.
The clash between protesters and the police has once again highlighted the tension between the right to protest and the need to maintain public order.
While the police have a duty to ensure public safety, they must also respect the right of citizens to peaceful protest.
The new Public Order Act has been criticised for potentially infringing upon this right, as protesters can now face fines and imprisonment for obstructing public spaces.
The arrest of protesters has also raised concerns about police accountability and the appropriate use of police powers.