Police say the republican demonstrators were conspiring to “cause a public nuisance”
Police officers arrested a number of anti-monarchy demonstrators and seized protest placards ahead of the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday. The protesters say they want to be able to choose their head of state.
London’s Metropolitan Police said on Saturday morning that “a significant police operation” was underway in central London. Shortly afterwards, the force announced that it had arrested four people “on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance,” and another three “on suspicion of possessing articles to cause criminal damage.” The first group were found in possession of “lock-on devices,” police said.
“Public nuisance” was made a criminal offense under controversial protest laws brought in last year, while “locking on” – a tactic popularized by climate activists – was criminalized when a separate public order bill came into force earlier this week.
Republic, an anti-monarchy group, said that its leader and five key organizers were among those arrested, and that hundreds of the group’s placards were seized by police. The Alliance of European Republican Movements – which opposes monarchies across the continent – posted a video to social media showing Republic’s leader, Graham Smith, being detained.
Other photos and videos show officers seizing bundles of placards reading ‘Not My King’ and taking banners off protesters at Trafalgar Square, where hundreds of demonstrators had gathered to oppose the coronation of Britain’s new monarch. As Charles III was crowned inside Westminster Abbey, the crowd at Trafalgar Square chanted “down with the crown” and “get a real job.”
“Instead of a coronation we want an election. Instead of Charles we want a choice. It’s that simple,” Republic tweeted before the ceremony began.
Trafalgar Square was a symbolic location for the protest. Aside from its location along the coronation procession route, the square is home to a statue of King Charles I, who was executed in 1649 after the English Civil War. England was briefly a republic after his death, before the monarchy was restored in 1660 with the coronation of his son, Charles II.
Elsewhere in London, police arrested “around 20” climate protesters affiliated with the ‘Just Stop Oil’ group, the group said. Claiming that the protesters had no plans of disrupting the coronation and simply planned on revealing t-shirts with the group’s name written on them, a Just Stop Oil spokesperson described the police operation as “a dystopian nightmare.”