Police arrest anti-monarchist protesters at royal events in England and Scotland

Police arrest anti-monarchist protesters at royal events in England and Scotland
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LONDON — Lawyers and free speech activists are sounding alarm bells after reports emerged in recent days of police detaining, transferring and, in some cases, even arresting protesters at events marking the queen’s death. Elizabeth II and the accession of his eldest son Charles.

People have been detained by the police while shouting against the crown, they heckled passing royals carrying anti-monarchist signs, and in one case, a blank sheet of paper. The police crackdown on such protests has raised questions about freedom of expression during this tense period in the UK.

On Twitter, the hashtag “NotMyKing”, after the slogan that appears in the sign of a protester – who was taken away by police in London in a video on Monday – was trending earlier Tuesday. Lawmakers have called on authorities to respect the rights of those who believe the queen’s death should herald the end of the monarchy.

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“No one should be arrested just for expressing Republican views,” Said Zarah Sultana, member of the opposition Labor Party who represents Coventry South in Parliament. “It is extraordinary, and shocking, that this needs to be said.”

Reports of arrests first emerged on Sunday, when a document formally proclaiming Charles as king was read aloud at venues across the UK. In Oxford, Symon Hill, 45, was arrested after shouting: “Who chose him?” while the proclamation was read. In a blog post describing the incident, Hill claimed that police they handcuffed him and did not tell him why was he being arrested.

the Thames Valley Police confirmed to British media that a “45-year-old man was arrested in connection with a disturbance that occurred during the proclamation ceremony for King Charles III in the county at Oxford.” He said a man was later “dis-arrested” and was cooperating with police as they “investigated a public order offence,” though Hill wrote on Twitter that he had not. committed to the police since his initial arrest.

In the United Kingdom, an arrest is more akin to an arrest in the United States, however, accused persons ends up having to appear before a judge.

In Edinburgh, a 22-year-old woman was arrested outside St. Giles Cathedral, where the queen was laid to rest at the start of the week, for breaking the peace. She was photographed holding a sign that featured a more vulgar version of the slogan “Down with imperialism.”

The woman was subsequently charged under a section of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 that prohibits “threatening or abusive” behaviour, a advocacy group he works for said in a sentence.

Incidents like these highlight gaps in the legal rights of protesters in the UK, Clive Stafford Smith, a civil rights lawyer and dual British-American citizen, told The Washington Post.

“Despite all the complacent publicity that this country is a free speech country, the British don’t really get free speech the way Americans do,” he said.

In Great Britain, the Treason Felonies Act 1848 makes it a felony for any person to commit acts intended to deprive the British sovereign of the “royal name of the imperial crown”. The law doesn’t apply today, Stafford Smith said, but “it’s still on the books.” Some police officers who have cracked down on protesters in recent days may be enforcing the Public Order Act of 1986: “an incredibly vague statute that says anything likely to cause public disorder is left to the authority of the police to decide.” if arresting someone,” he said. additional.

The recent Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 has been heavily criticized for impose restrictions on protestsalthough it is unclear whether any of the protesters were charged under this law, as most of its provisions do not apply to Scotland.

Activist and lawyer Paul Powlesland said Monday that he was in Parliament Square in London and “raised a blank piece of paper” when a police officer asked for his information. The officer apparently said “that if he wrote ‘Not my king,’ he would arrest me under the Public Order Act because someone might be offended.” Powlesland wrote in a tweet.

A brief clip of their interaction went viral on social media, prompting Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy to say in a statement Monday: “We have been doing [the public’s right to protest] clear to all officers involved in the extraordinary police operation that is currently taking place and we will continue to do so.”

Incidents like these have been few and far between as millions of people across the country gather for various events during the 10-day mourning period declared to mark the queen’s passing. “The vast majority of interactions between officers and the public at this time have been positive, as people have come to the capital to mourn the loss of the late Her Majesty the Queen,” Cundy said.

However, some on social media pointed to another form of censorship of anti-monarchist views, one based on peer pressure.

In its blog postHill, the Oxford protester, had this to say when he yelled, “Who elected him?” in the crowd, “two or three people near me told me to shut up.” And in Edinburgh, when a 22-year-old interrupted prince andrew As the procession carrying the queen’s coffin marched down the Royal Mile, videos surfaced showing the protester being violently thrown to the ground and pushed by two men in the crowd before police took him away.

A Police Scotland spokesman told The Washington Post via email that a 22-year-old man was arrested and later “released on an undertaking to appear in Edinburgh Sheriff’s Court at a later date.”

“Arresting people for shouting republican slogans, even if they do so in a deliberately rude and provocative way, is absolutely un-British,” said Daniel Hannan, a member of the House of Lords. “I am concerned that our police are becoming more authoritarian and, worse, that part of the public is cheering them on.”

“The right to dissent is never more important than in moments of patriotic fervor,” Jorge Monbiota British writer and activist, wrote Tuesday on Twitter.

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