Animal rights activists complain after Met Police arrests 'miles away from coronation'

Credit: AP

The Metropolitan Police detained a group of animal welfare activists - who were allegedly at a training workshop - amid dozens of other arrests made in London on coronation day.

The force said they “understand public concern” after officers made 52 arrests throughout the King’s coronation day. The Met came under heavy criticism on Saturday after what campaign groups described as “incredibly alarming” detentions during republican protests.

The Animal Rising activist group, who interrupted the Grand National earlier this year, alleged that 14 of its members were detained in the borough of Hackney, "several miles away from the coronation".

In a statement, it said the arrests took place during "an all-day nonviolence training" workshop that had been "publically advertised".

In a statement released later on Saturday evening, the Metropolitan Police said it arrested 14 people in East London "on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance".

The police force has not confirmed whether or not the Animal Rising arrests were linked to the King's coronation.

Protesters mix with coronation spectators ahead of the ceremony. Credit: PA

Nathan McGovern, a spokesman for the campaign group, said: “This is nothing short of a totalitarian crackdown on free speech and all forms of dissent.

“Just Stop Oil, Republic and Animal Rising have experienced the true character of this Government’s attitude towards peaceful protest today.

“We are sleepwalking into fascism and it is every single person’s responsibility to stand up and say ‘no more’.”

The Met Police arrested a total of 52 people for multiple suspected offences on Saturday, including affray, public order offences, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. All remain in custody.

Among the arrests, thirteen were arrested on the Mall on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance, whilst five were arrested in Whitehall on suspicion of the same offence.

The Met said it received information that protesters were “determined to disrupt” the coronation – including defacing public monuments with paint, breaching barriers and disrupting official movements. But campaigners said the protests were “peaceful”, describing the arrests as “a dangerous precedent for us as a democratic nation”. The force confirmed reports from Just Stop Oil that 13 demonstrators were detained on the Mall and six public nuisance arrests on St Martin’s Lane following protests from Republic.

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Three people were also apprehended in Soho, three at Wellington Arch and five on Whitehall on conspiracy to cause public nuisance, with another in Whitehall arrested for religiously aggravated behaviour likely to cause harassment.

Commander Karen Findlay, who led the policing operation, said: “We absolutely understand public concern following the arrests we made this morning. “Protest is lawful and it can be disruptive. We also have a duty to intervene when protest becomes criminal and may cause serious disruption.” Commander Findlay added: “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 today with police knowledge and no intervention.” Human Rights Watch labelled the arrests “incredibly alarming”, adding: “This is something you would expect to see in Moscow, not London”. Amnesty International’s chief executive Sacha Deshmukh also raised concerns after police were reportedly given instructions to apprehend people with megaphones. Outside London, 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”.

In a statement praising the work of officers involved in policing the coronation, Met Police Commander Karen Findlay commented: "We absolutely understand public concern following the arrests we made this morning.

"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."