Police say they will intervene in peaceful anti-monarchy protests only if ‘absolutely necessary’

Senior Metropolitan Police officer vows that response will be ‘proportionate and balanced’ after arrests in Scotland

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Editor
Friday 16 September 2022 12:31 BST
Man claims police officer warned him about arrest if he wrote ‘not my King’ on placard

Police will only intervene in peaceful anti-monarchy protests when “absolutely necessary”, senior officers have said as security mounts for the Queen’s funeral.

Several people have been charged in Scotland, while a man was arrested at a proclamation ceremony for King Charles III in Oxford and demonstrators have been moved or spoken to by police in London.

Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Cundy said while 34 people had been arrested as part of the policing operation following the Queen’s death in London, none of them were protesters.

“We have ensured that all of our officers, not just Met officers but all colleagues deployed here, understand that people have a right to protest,” he told a press conference on Friday.

“Our response here in London will be proportionate, it will be balanced and officers will only be taking action where it is absolutely necessary.”

Mr Cundy said Scotland Yard’s main priority was the safety of members of the public, royal family, dignitaries and world leaders attending the Queen’s lying-in-state, funeral and related processions.

Thames Valley Police assistant chief constable Tim De Meyer, who is leading the linked operation for Monday’s committal service in Windsor, said: “We have to balance the right of freedom of expression with public safety.

“I am confident that officers will be equipped to use their good judgement in whatever situation arises.”

He urged anyone planning a protest to contact police in advance so they are “able to facilitate” events.

On Monday, a police officer in London demanded the details of a barrister who held up a “blank piece of paper” in Parliament Square, while a woman holding a “not my King” sign was moved from gates outside parliament.

Several people have been arrested for “breaching the peace” and charged in Scotland, including a woman who held up a sign reading “f*** imperialism, abolish monarchy” at a proclamation ceremony for the new King, and a man who heckled Prince Andrew as he followed the Queen’s coffin in Edinburgh.

A man arrested under the Public Order Act in Oxford after shouting “who elected him?” at a proclamation ceremony was later de-arrested by police.

People holding blank placards in a demonstration against police action over anti-monarchy protests in Scotland (AFP via Getty Images)

The campaign Republic called for an “open and free debate” on the future of the monarchy, saying many people objected to the accession of Charles III “without debate or consent”.

The Liberty human rights group accused police of “enforcing their broad powers in a heavy-handed and punitive way”.

Following a backlash to the arrests, guidance was issued to police forces across the UK on Tuesday “in order to ensure a national consistency of approach”.

A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesperson said all groups and causes would be treated impartially, adding: “We know some people want to protest on a range of issues during this time of national mourning, and officers must balance these rights against those who wish to grieve and reflect. We have issued guidance to forces on how they should do this.”

Police questioned a man seen wearing a GoPro camera in the River Thames near parliament in the early hours of the morning, but Mr Cundy said officers established that the incident was “nothing more than a man going for a charity swim”.

The operation around the Queen’s funeral on Monday is the largest ever undertaken by the Metropolitan Police, with thousands of officers being drawn into London from forces across the UK.

They are working to protect large crowds, as well as members of the royal family, dignitaries and world leaders flying into Britain to pay their respects.

Armed police, mounted officers, police dogs and marine units will be on patrol, while covert operations will also be underway in the capital.

In Windsor, where the Queen’s coffin will travel following the funeral at Westminster Abbey, visitors will go through airport-style security scanners and roads surrounding the castle will be closed off for security.

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