Anti-monarchy protesters consider suing Met Police after 52 coronation arrests
The leader of an anti-monarchist group who was detained for demonstrating at the King’s coronation has said the group is considering suing police for unlawful arrest.
Republic’s leader, Graham Smith, was released on Saturday night after nearly 16 hours in police custody. He was one of 52 protesters from anti-monarchy and environmental groups that were arrested, in what critics called a “totalitarian crackdown”.
Mr Smith said the group had engaged in discussions with the Metropolitan Police for four months before taking to the streets on Saturday, and insisted officers “had repeatedly said they had no concerns about our plans whatsoever.”
The force had said it would facilitate anti-monarchy demonstrations unless they contravened existing laws or new powers that came into force last week banning “locking-on” and causing “serious disruption”.
But members of the Republic campaign group were arrested on Saturday morning and saw hundreds of placards reading “Not My King” seized by the force, despite gaining police permission for a rally in Trafalgar Square.
Speaking to Channel 4, Mr Smith explained: “Then on the day we turned up with our placards and immediately about 40 or 50 officers descended on us, arrested us, and searched us and our vans.
“We were then detained for 16 hours, bailed, phones confiscated. Now, we’re still waiting to hear what’s happened. There are no grounds or any cause for suspicion whatsoever.”
He added: “When they actually arrested us, it was on suspicion of being equipped to lock on, which we were not equipped to do.”
Asked if he was considering suing the police for unlawful arrest as a result, Mr Smith replied: “We have certainly been taking legal advice. We have had huge support from the public and legal professionals.
“If it goes the way we think it will, we will certainly consider what action we can take next.”
Pressed again on whether Republic was looking to sue the Met, he responded: “That’s certainly something we’re considering – and another thing we’re considering is more protest.”
Several action groups raised alarm about the arrests on Saturday, with Animal Rising accusing police of enforcing a “totalitarian crackdown” and Human Rights hitting out at “scenes you’d expect to see in Russia not the UK”.
Asked about the language used to describe the blocking of protest, Mr Smith told the broadcaster: “We no longer have the right to protest. Our protest is a freedom which is contingent on political decisions made by senior police officers and members of the government.
“So, if they wish to stop a protest from carrying on, they have now the means to stop it without any serious evidence or concern.
“The law is so broad and their power so ill-defined, they can simply decide to stop a protest.”
He added: “The importance of being free to dissent is so crucial to democracy that the line should be drawn fairly generously in favour of protest.”
Elsewhere, human rights activist Peter Tatchell has called for an investigation into the Met’s decision to go back on its assurances to Republic.
“We’re very disappointed and angry at police behaviour,” he told Good Morning Britain.