Why The Arrest Of A Royal Superfan At The Coronation Matters

What does this say about how we police protests?
Members of the anti-monarchist group 'Republic' protest in Trafalgar Square on the coronation day of King Charles III, on May 6, 2023.
Members of the anti-monarchist group 'Republic' protest in Trafalgar Square on the coronation day of King Charles III, on May 6, 2023.
Richard Baker via Getty Images

Police arrested a royal superfan at King Charles’s coronation after mistaking her for a Just Stop Oil protester.

They then held Alice Chambers for 13 hours in total, despite her repeated attempts to explain that she was just watching the Royal Family, not joining the demonstrations.

Here’s what you need to know.

What happened?

Chambers is an Australian architect who lives in London, who went to watch part of the procession during King Charles’s coronation.

She told BBC Newsnight she just happened to be standing near to the Just Stop Oil activists on the Mall last Saturday when she was arrested.

Officers told her she was being arrested on suspicion of “potential to cause a breach of peace”.

She handcuffed, fingerprinted and questioned in a police station – you can see her arrest briefly in footage shared on Sky News here:

Chambers later told Sky News: “There was a big commotion as several police officers swooped in and started arresting Just Stop Oil protesters before they could begin protesting.

“Before I could get up, two police officers came over and grabbed me, before taking me away in handcuffs.

“When I was arrested I repeatedly tried to explain to the police I had no affiliation with the protesters. I provided my personal details, but was still detained for 13 hours.”

Chambers first told her story to the i newspaper on Thursday, and said she tried to give the police her contact details and show her ID, but “nothing” seemed to deter officers.

Chambers said after half a day in custody she was questioned by officers, at which point she “explained everything and they looked at each other in shock”.

The royal fan said officers were then very kind to her, and apologetic, telling her it was a “misunderstanding”. She was released after 13 hours, without any further police action but missed the whole coronation.

What did the police say?

The Met Police said that it was an officer from Lincolnshire Police who arrested her, and who had been drafted in to help out for the big event.

A Scotland Yard spokesperson said: “The arresting officer was from Lincolnshire Police and the complaint has therefore been passed to the relevant force to investigate.

“The Met will assist by providing any relevant information they require.”

Chambers said this was just “finger pointing” and claimed that the Met “ultimately took over” from the arresting office to detain her.

She has since lodged a formal complaint, which is now under review by the professional standards department at Lincolnshire Police, and wants an investigation into officers’ behaviour on the day of the coronation.

Why is Chambers’ arrest such a big talking point?

The police’s handling of the coronation protests was already under scrutiny, especially as it was the first major event after the government had awarded officers new powers to handle demonstrators.

The new Public Order Act allows officers to “pre-arrest” protesters before their demonstration has begun, according to campaigners lobbying against it.

Before the coronation, police said that it was fine to hold a placard, but vowed to deliver on “swift action” if they believed lawful protest moved into criminal intent.

The new law meant were also allowed to search protesters for items which could be disruptive (like padlocks).

Chambers’ arrest only highlights the flaws in this new public order legislation.

Police have also already expressed regret over arresting Graham Smith who leads the anti-monarchy group Republic, along with five other protesters on the morning of the ceremony – even though the campaigners had liaised with the police before the event.

Sixty-four people were arrested in total during the coronation, 52 of whom were allegedly going to disrupt the event according to police. Four have been charged.

But, despite the fallout, prime minister Rishi Sunak has stood by officers saying that the police need the new powers to tackle “serious disruption”.

Asked if Sunak stood by officers, his spokesperson said: “Yes. As the prime minister said, it was an enormous policing effort to keep the public safe and do everything they did.”

Chambers told the BBC that the entire ordeal was “so shocking” during an appearance on Newsnight.

She said: “It’s just been so shocking, and very emotional. It’s not something you ever expect, to find yourself in a jail cell for a period of time.

“Really you would think that this should never happen. Clearly there are processes that need to be put in place, or that weren’t followed.

“No-one should endure an extended period under arrest, just because they’re an innocent bystander.”


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