Margaret Thatcher funeral: Demonstrators 'given go-ahead' to turn backs on coffin during procession as guerilla protest plans gather pace

Nearly 300 protesters sign-up to turn backs on former Prime Minister's coffin during procession

Plans to mark the funeral of Baroness Thatcher with approved and “guerilla” protests along the route of the ceremonial procession gathered pace yesterday as it was announced that the bells of Big Ben will be silenced in her honour.

More than 300 people have already signed up to turn their backs on the former Prime Minister’s Union flag-draped coffin as it is marches past on a gun carriage close to the Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand on Wednesday morning en route to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Scotland Yard refused to confirm claims from organisers that the symbolic protest has been given formal permission to proceed by officers planning the substantial security operation accompanying the funeral, which will involve up to 4,000 officers.

The discord between protesters - who have vowed to create as much noise as possible as the solemn procession passes - and organisers of the ceremony will be increased by the decision to deliberately silence Big Ben and the Great Clock at Westminster for the first time since the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.

In a statement, Commons Speaker John Bercow said: “I believe there can be a profound dignity and deep respect both expressed in and through silence and I am sure that the House will agree.”

The children of Lady Thatcher, Sir Mark and Carol, who are understood to have declined an offer for Big Ben to toll 87 times for each year of their mother’s life, said they appreciated the “great honour” of the bells being silenced.

The announcement of the details of the procession and the service in St Paul’s, which followed an early morning rehearsal of the proceedings today, were accompanied by an increase in preparations by those seeking to use the occasion to express their disapproval of the former premier.

The Met is understood to be evaluating intelligence about whether there are grounds to stage pre-emptive arrests against known potential troublemakers who may be planning to attempt to disrupt the military procession.

Instructions on how to target the funeral by shouting slogans and songs celebrating Lady Thatcher’s death at chosen points along the route from Westminster to St Paul’s were being circulated online.

Police were heavily criticised in 2011 following the decision to swoop on individuals believed to have been planning to cause a disturbance at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, though judges later dismissed a claim that the force had acted unlawfully.

A spokesman for the Yard, which has also signalled its willingness to make greater use of the stringent powers of the Public Order Act, said: “Arrests are made with the purpose of preventing criminal activity. If there is evidence, and it is necessary to prevent crime, arrests would be made.”

Organisers of a Facebook campaign to highlight the “turn your back” protest said that the demonstration had been approved by the Metropolitan Police.

Rebecca Lush Blum, 41, from Hampshire, a veteran protester, said: “I sat there last week getting crosser and crosser at the attempt to rewrite history. David Cameron said Mrs Thatcher had saved the country. I think she actually destroyed this country.

“I wanted to do something that was dignified and peaceful. I spoke to a number of officers and I’ve received assurances that this protest will not be problem as long as it remains peaceful. It is sad that I have to seek these assurances but I’m a mother and I cannot take the risk of being kettled or corralled for hours on end.”

The pre-announced protest, which is also being backed by the Socialist Workers’ Party, is set to be accompanied by smaller demonstrations as police, including plainclothes officers deployed in the roadside crowd, attempt to control events.

Organisers have called for such “guerilla” demonstrations to target television news crews used to provide coverage of the event by surrounding cameras and shouting slogans when they are broadcasting live as well as gathering at “flashpoints” along the procession route.

One online entry called for megaphones to be used to sing a song celebrating Lady Thatcher’s death to the tune of Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody”. One version of the suggested words stated: “We all sing together in one breath/ Happy riddance Maggie Thatcher/  We all celebrate today/ ‘Cause you finally met up with your death.”

The Yard declined to discuss how many applications it had received to stage protests along with funeral route or how many it had approved.

Downing Street has reiterated Prime Minister David Cameron’s view that so-called “celebrations” of Lady Thatcher’s demise were “disgraceful” as the row continued over the estimated £10m cost of the funeral.

A spokesman said:“The right thing to do is to mark the passing of Lady Thatcher in the way that we are doing. That is clearly the Prime Minister’s view. When it comes to costs, it would be considered pretty extraordinary by very many people both here in the UK and abroad if we did not mark her passing in the manner we are doing.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence