Met Police arrests of anti-monarchy protesters at coronation to be scrutinised by MPs

Twitter account of @Labour4Republic of a anti monarchy protester being arrested in central London.
An anti monarchy protester being arrested in central London on Saturday. Credit: PA

The Metropolitan Police's handling of anti-monarchy protests over the coronation weekend will be scrutinised by MPs.

The force has been criticised for arresting six demonstrators from campaign group Republic on suspicion of going equipped to “lock on” under the sweeping powers of the new Public Order Act.

Dame Diana Johnson, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said there are “real questions” to be asked about the practical application of the law and what guidance was issued to officers ahead of the King’s coronation at Westminster Abbey on Saturday. Her committee will meet next Wednesday to examine the policing of the event, taking evidence from a number of witnesses.

The Labour MP said she recognises that the Met had co-ordinated a “huge policing operation over the weekend” which had been “very successful” at keeping people safe.

Dame Diana said the committee will be interested in reviewing how broad the legislation is and “what guidance was given to frontline police officers and whether there is an issue about training”. She also said answers are needed on why more top-level discussions between Met chiefs and Republic in the months ahead of the coronation were not shared with officers on the ground, particularly when it came to the use of megaphones and luggage tags by demonstrators.

It comes after mayor Sadiq Khan demanded answers from London’s police chief following the arrest of protestors at the coronation, as well as volunteers for Westminster City Council charity Night Star which hands out rape alarms.

The mayor has written to Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley asking him to explain the arrests.

The leader of the council has requested an apology from the Met after all three Night Star volunteers were released without charge.

Protesters from Republic gathered in Trafalgar Square to rally against the monarchy. Credit: Sebastian Bozon/PA

Khan said the detentions had "given rise for concerns" and should be subject to an urgent review.

He asked the Commissioner to explain why police officers seemingly ignored meetings between the Met and Republic before the coronation.

Britain’s most senior police officer defended the arrest of six anti-monarchy protesters and hit out at “ill-informed commentary” amid fierce criticism of the action taken.

Writing for the Evening Standard, Sir Mark said it was “unfortunate” that the demonstrators were unable to join fellow activists on Saturday following their detention.

But the Met has expressed “regret” that six anti-monarchy protesters from the campaign group Republic were arrested ahead of the King’s coronation.

No charges were brought against the demonstrators and their bail cancelled with no further action taken.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also backed the new powers, which came into force last week, saying it is right for officers to have the ability to tackle “serious disruption”.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...

Helen King, a former Met assistant commissioner, said it is “legitimate to ask questions” about the police’s handling of the protests but added that frontline officers do not have the benefit of hindsight when making on-the-spot decisions about public safety. She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “For the frontline officer, they have a very difficult decision that they have to make quickly, usually with imperfect and partial information. “And those of us who have the benefit of hindsight, knowing that the coronation went off safely, that horses didn’t bolt, that there wasn’t a stampede, that nobody got seriously hurt, we’re in a luxurious position compared with the officer on the street having to make a decision there and then.”