People Are Calling Out The Police For Their Attitude To Anti-Monarchy Protesters

"So only monarchists are allowed to express an opinion on our streets?"
An anti-monarchy protester is escorted by police outside the Houses of Parliament ahead of King Charles address to parliament on September 12.
An anti-monarchy protester is escorted by police outside the Houses of Parliament ahead of King Charles address to parliament on September 12.
Chris J Ratcliffe via Getty Images

Anti-monarchy protests have been quickly tackled by the police over the last few days – but not everyone is happy about it.

The changeover in monarch, from Queen Elizabeth II to her eldest son King Charles III, is seen by republicans as the ideal time for a change in the way the UK operates – prompting a small wave of demonstrations across the country.

But, police have quickly acted on several of these protests, escorting anti-monarchists away from crowds or even arresting them.

This has caused a huge stir on Twitter, as critics believe this impinges on freedom of speech, one the central pillars of a democracy.

Here’s what you need to know.

All the known police interventions so far

In Oxford, on Saturday

Author, activist and history tutor Simon Hill claims he was arrested in Oxford (although subsequently de-arrested) after he supposedly shouted, “Who elected him?” during King Charles III’s formal proclamation as the new monarch.

He told the Bright Green campaign website that the police had offered him “confused answers” when he asked about the reasons behind his arrest.

Thames Valley Police later confirmed to Yahoo News UK: “A 45-year-old man was arrested in connection with a disturbance that was caused during the county proclamation ceremony of King Charles III in Oxford.

“He has subsequently been de-arrested and is engaging with us voluntarily as we investigate a public order offence.”

Being de-arrested means to be released before being taken to the police station for further questioning.

In Edinburgh, on Sunday

A woman was arrested after holding an anti-monarchy sign shortly before the announcement for the accession proclamation of Charles on Sunday.

Police in Scotland said the arrest was made outside St Giles Cathedral, where the Queen’s coffin is currently lying at rest.

She held a sign with the slogan: “Fuck imperialism, abolish monarchy.”

Officers took her away, and the crowd clapped, although one man said: “Let her go, it’s free speech.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson later confirmed a 22-year-old woman was arrested “in connection with a breach of the peace”. She was later charged and is due to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court at a later date.

In Edinburgh, on Monday

One protester was arrested for “shouting abuse” at Prince Andrew during the procession carrying the Queen’s coffin moved down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh on Monday.

Amid the quiet crowd, he called: “Andrew, you’re a sick old man!”

In Edinburgh, on Monday

Another arrest took place around the same time on Monday, although more details surrounding it are yet to emerge.

A spokesperson for Police Scotland confirmed: “A 74-year-old man was also arrested near Holyroodhouse in connection with a breach of the peace - he has also now been charged and is due to appear before Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Monday, September 12.”

In London, on Monday

A demonstrator holding up a small sign with the words “Not my king” was silently led away by police on Monday morning.

In London, on Monday

Barrister and climate activist Paul Powlesland claimed he risked being arrested for writing “not my king” on blank piece of paper while in Parliament Square.

Powlesland also tweeted a video recording of an exchange that he appeared to have had with a police officer, who could be heard telling him that someone might be offended if the lawyer were to write “not my king” on the piece of paper he was carrying.

He tweeted: “He confirmed that if I wrote ‘Not My King’ on it, he would arrest me under the Public Order Act because someone might be offended.

“A period of quiet mourning for the Queen is fine, but using that period to cement Charles accession as King and cracking down on any dissent to the accession as disrespectful is outrageous.”

People on Twitter are furious...

So, should people be arrested for peaceful protest?

Well, there’s a range of legal opinions out there.

Barrister Adam Wagner tweeted: “A few stories of people being arrested for protesting against the monarchy – unless they are threatening violence the police should leave well alone.

“Freedom of speech is as important a value in times of public mourning as it [is] at any other time.”

He continued: “A few people saying ‘now is not the time’. That is a fair opinion and will be shared by many, but it is an opinion not the law. Protest is often inconvenient and irritating – but still a central part of our democracy.”

He clarified that a “liberal society benefits from multiple points of view”.

Another criminal barrister, Tom Wainwright, also explained: “It is not automatically a criminal offence to express republican views in public. Now or ever. As is often the case, context may be important.”

He said police can “only arrest for breach of the peace if there is a threat of violence” – including if threatening or abusive words said or displayed in public could cause “harassment, alarm or distress”.

And, Wainwright explained that a court could only convict if it was necessary to protect public safety.

But, Wainwright also highlighted that laws are different in England and Wales compared they are in Scotland.

Legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg told Times Radio that in Scotland, this matter comes under a common law laid down over the centuries and reviewed by judges 20 years ago.

It states that “breach of the peace” which causes alarm to ordinary people and threatens serious disturbance to the community, could justifiably lead to an arrest.

He argued that offensive signs shown at times of heightened emotion might have caused violence to break out, and so the display of the ‘Fuck Imperialism’ sign “did fall under the definition of the criminal law as I understand it to be in Scotland”.


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