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More than 50 Coronation arrests as Met accused of 'heavy-handed' policing of protests


MORE than fifty people were arrested during and in the run up to the Coronation amid suspicions they were planning to disrupt the event.

These included three people arrested at 2am on Saturday after the Met Police received intelligence they were planning to use rape alarms to disrupt the event.

There have been allegations of heavy-handedness by the force amid claims they arrested people who were just going to hold up protest signs.

Commander Karen Findlay, who is leading the ongoing policing of the weekend's events, said: "This has been a magnificent team effort and everyone in the Met is hugely proud to have played our role.

"Our first priority has been to ensure that the tens of thousands who travelled into London today, and millions more around the world, were able to enjoy a safe, secure and dignified Coronation.

"Our heartfelt thanks goes to everyone. I know our colleagues take great satisfaction from the warm comments from the public they have met.”

A Met Police spokesman said: "Over the past 24 hours there has been a significant police operation after we received information protesters were determined to disrupt the Coronation procession.

"This included information that individuals would attempt to deface public monuments with paint, breach barriers and disrupt the official movements.

"Earlier this week we said our tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low and that we would deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining the celebration.

"A total of 52 arrests have been made for offences including affray, public order offences, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. All of these people remain in custody."

Officers did engage with organisers of a static demonstration that took place in Trafalgar Square yesterday, close to the junction with Whitehall.

Commander Findlay added: "We absolutely understand public concern following the arrests we made this morning.

"Protest is lawful and it can be disruptive. We have policed numerous protests without intervention in the build-up to the Coronation, and during it.

"Our duty is to do so in a proportionate manner in line with relevant legislation. We also have a duty to intervene when protest becomes criminal and may cause serious disruption.

“This depends on the context. The Coronation is a once in a generation event and that is a key consideration in our assessment.

“A protest involving large numbers has gone ahead with police knowledge and no intervention.”

Breakdown of arrests:

*One person arrested on Charing Cross Road, Westminster, on suspicion of affray.

*One person arrested near Green Park Station, Westminster, on suspicion of racially aggravated behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

*One person arrested at Leicester Square, Westminster, on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.

*Three people arrested in Soho, Westminster, on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.

*Two people arrested at St James’ Park, Westminster, to prevent a breach of the peace.

*Six people arrested at St Martin’s Lane, Westminster, on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.

*One person arrested at Trafalgar Square, Westminster, on suspicion of sexual assault (sexual touching).

*Fourteen people arrested on The Mall, Westminster, 13 of whom were arrested in order to prevent a breach of the peace. The 14th person was arrested for possession of drugs and possession of a knife.

*Three people arrested at Wellington Arch, Westminster, on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.

*Six people arrested on Whitehall, five of whom were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. The sixth was arrested for religiously aggravated behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm of distress.

*Fourteen people arrested in East London on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.

The spokesman added: "We received intelligence that indicated groups and individuals seeking to disrupt the Coronation proceedings were planning to use rape alarms to disrupt the procession.

"There was particular concern from military colleagues that this would scare their horses involved in the procession and, as a result, cause significant risk to the safety of the public and the riders.

"At approximately 2am on Saturday, three people were stopped by officers and arrested in the Soho area on suspicion of conspiracy to commit public nuisance. Among items seized were a number of rape alarms."

The three people – a 37-year-old woman, a 59-year-old woman and a 47-year-old man – were taken to a south London police station, where they were questioned. The 47-year-old man was also further arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods.

All three have since been released on bail pending further enquiries.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said: “The intelligence we received led us to be extremely worried about the potential risk to public safety. We are aware of and understand there is public concern over these arrests. However, the matter is still under investigation.”

Those arrested amid suspicions they were seeking to use disruptive protests were members of anti-monarchy group Republic and climate activists Just Stop Oil.

Hundreds of people gathered to protest against the coronation in Trafalgar Square, where there was also a heavy police presence.

Demonstrators waved placards including one with a picture of the Duchess of Sussex with the words “The People’s Princess” and “Not my King”.

Another had ticked boxes beside the words Coronation Street and coronation chicken but a cross next to the coronation of the king.

They clashed with royal fans who were booing their chants of “Not my King”.

Republic had hoped for between 1,500 to 2,000 to gather from 8am.

A large yellow banner was unveiled with the words "abolish the monarchy", while badges and T-shirts with the slogan "not my king" were being worn by demonstrators.

The Met Police was accused of heavy handedness for arresting people before protests had even started and amid claims they were only planning to hold up signs in the crowd.

It had tweeted on May 3: "We will deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining this celebration."

Tweets from the Alliance of European Republican Movements appeared to show the CEO of Republic, Graham Smith, having his details being taken and being arrested as part of the police activity.

Republic activist Luke Whiting, 26, said: "Six Republic members have been arrested including the CEO as the demonstration was starting at the edge of Trafalgar Square.

"It is unclear why, potentially it is because one of them was carrying a megaphone.

"It is unclear exactly whether the police are using these new powers and whether they are misusing them to stop protests happening."

Royal fans cheered and shouted "see you later" as Just Stop Oil protesters were removed from The Mall.

Officers were seen carrying protesters from the area while crowds heckled and booed them.

Just Stop Oil tweeted that around 20 of its supporters had been arrested ahead of the procession.

The group said: "Meet Kush. Fossil Free London organiser and doctor specialising in infectious diseases.

"Kush has just been arrested at the coronation for wearing a t-shirt reading #JustStopOil.

"No supporters of Just Stop Oil arrested in the crowd had glue, paint or any plans to disrupt the Coronation.

"New policing laws mean we're now living in a dystopian nightmare – this disgraceful overreach is what you'd expect in Pyongyang, North Korea, not Westminster."

Just Stop Oil protester Ben Larsen said: "I wanted to see the coronation and peacefully protest on the sidelines, in a respectful manner.

"All we had was a Just Stop Oil t-shirt and an orange flag and that's enough to be detained by the police and searched."

He claimed that police found him using AI facial recognition cameras that they were trialling at the coronation.

Mr Larsen said: "We saw a line of police in front, turned around, saw a line of police behind, they dragged me away, even though I said I didn't want to go with them.

"They searched me, they found nothing on me."

He added: "I've been told repeatedly that I'm being detained as long as it takes."

Republic said its chief executive had been arrested along with five of his team.

It tweeted: “@GrahamSmith_ and five members of our team were arrested. Hundreds of placards were seized. Is this democracy?"

The Met Police tweeted: "Several people have been arrested on suspicion of offences including breaching the peace and conspiracy to cause public nuisance close to the coronation.

"A significant police operation is under way in central London. "We have made a number of arrests in the area of Carlton House Terrace.

"The individuals have been held on suspicion of breaching the peace. "Earlier today we arrested four people in the area of St Martin's Lane.

"They were held on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance. We seized lock-on devices.

"A further three people were arrested in the area of Wellington Arch.

"They were held on suspicion of possessing articles to cause criminal damage."

Non-profit campaign group Human Rights Watch said the coronation arrests were “something you would expect to see in Moscow not London”.

UK director Yasmine Ahmed said: “The reports of people being arrested for peacefully protesting the coronation are incredibly alarming. This is something you would expect to see in Moscow, not London.

“Peaceful protests allow individuals to hold those in power to account, something the UK government seems increasingly averse to.”

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who was with the anti-monarchy protesters, said on Twitter: “Police arrest peaceful anti-monarchy protesters & have erected giant barriers to obscure pro-republic banners. Right to freely protest was suppressed. Shame!”

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK's chief executive, said the human rights group had been concerned about Metropolitan Police statements about its "low tolerance" of protests ahead of the coronation arrests.

He said in a statement: "We need to see what details emerge around these incidents but merely being in possession of a megaphone or carrying placards should never be grounds for a police arrest.

"Peaceful protest is clearly protected under international human rights law and it's been worrying to see the police this week making numerous statements about their 'low tolerance' for disruption at the Coronation."

Elsewhere hundreds of people joined a march through Cardiff city centre in protest against the monarchy as the King was crowned.

Demonstrators walking down Queen Street shouted “Down with the Crown, Not my King” and “God save the poor”.

The procession will later head to Bute Park where a “Big Republican Lunch” is due to take place.

Nick Wall, member of campaign group Republic and chairman of the Labour For Republic organisation, addressed crowds at a Not My King rally in Cardiff where he called the arrests of protesters in London “disgraceful”.

King Charles III and Queen Camilla's Coronation passed otherwise peacefully thanks to one of the country's biggest ever security operations involving police, Armed Forces and the intelligence services.

Dubbed "Operation Golden Orb" it saw a ring of steel placed around the capital, including armed patrols and rooftop snipers, dog teams, airport-style screening and a no-fly zone over central London.

There were around 11,500 officers, from across the country, policing the event on Saturday with a total of 29,000 involved in the run up to the day.

Blockades and pavement barriers stretching for miles stopped vehicles being driven at crowds, which also contained several plain-clothes officers

The Met Police led-operation, which involved Thames Valley Police at Windsor, was supported by Contingency Stewarding Forces (CSF) additional security support.

Made up of over 500 Armed Forces personnel from across the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force, they were deployed across various locations along the processional route.

Alongside stewarding support in Central London, the MOD supported Thames Valley Police by providing Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Electronic Countermeasure security support for today<Sunday's> Windsor concert.

The Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) also supported police officers generally during the Coronation, with specialist officers supporting defence personnel based in the MOD Main Building and at Regents Park Barracks before and during yesterday's ceremony.

Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey said: “Our Armed Forces were again involved in a momentous day for our country, and I want to commend them for their hard work and commitment.

“From the thousands of personnel involved in the procession to the hundreds supporting stewarding and security, I know that they feel immense pride being part of history.”

Ahead of the Coronation, police assessed the risk posed by Royal and VIP-obsessed fanatics, whose numbers have doubled since 2014, including trawling their social media accounts.

Tabs were being kept on about 200 people in the run up to the event.

A man was quickly arrested at Buckingham Palace four days before the Coronation on Tuesday evening on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon after a suspect was seen throwing multiple shotgun cartridges over the gates. A controlled explosion was later carried out. A 59-year-old man, also found in possession of a knife, was detained under the Mental Health Act.

The Scotland Yard Royalty and Specialist Protection Command refers individuals of concern to the Fixated Threat Assessment Centre which monitors risks to royals, politicians and other prominent figures.

Ex-Royal police protection officer Paul Page said: "The Met will have been liaising with the security services for sometime in order to identify any specific threats to the Coronation and members of the Royal Family."

He said "known individuals" and groups "who have fixations and issues with the Royal Family" will also have been monitored.

He added: "This would potentially include surveillance of suspects which pose a particular threat and possible arrests under new legislation re protests."

Former Met Police undercover detective Peter Bleksley said the closeness of the timing of the Queen's Funeral in September had been a good dry run for the Coronation.

He said a major terror strike or "lone wolf" attacker along the Mall would have been among the top concerns alongside protests by Republic, who had announced plans to demonstrate against the Monarchy along the route with yellow T-shirts saying "#NotMyKing," plus eco zealots Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion.

Mr Bleksley said: "Imagine a Manchester Arena happening at the Coronation, so the security would have started many, many miles from Westminster Abbey along the major routes and at tube stations. Security personnel, including the army would have been deployed in huge numbers at tube stations and train stations in suburbs doing all manner of things waiting to see those suspicious people parking a car with a rucksack like the 7/7 bombers. All sewer, drain and manhole covers would have been welded shut.

"The good thing is that the funeral was so recent that the plans had been very recently tested and put into practice so that was one thing in favour of law enforcement and the military."

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