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Scores arrested over coronation weekend, in 'heavy-handed' police operation

Police arrest an anti-monarchy demonstrators ahead of the procession of Britain's King Charles III to Westminster Abbey for his coronation in London Saturday, May 6, 2023.
Police arrest an anti-monarchy demonstrators ahead of the procession of Britain's King Charles III to Westminster Abbey for his coronation in London Saturday, May 6, 2023. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Sudesh Baniya
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London police confirmed a total of 64 arrests during coronation weekend, sparking concerns over a crackdown on free speech.

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Sixty-four were arrested in London following a policing operation over the coronation weekend, according to the Metropolitan Police.  

The official count comes after reports of several arrests throughout the day on Saturday, involving those protesting against the monarchy -- or even those who had signs but had not yet even begun to assemble and start their protest. 

The police said that several of those arrests were made for "breach of peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance."

Following Queen Elizabeth II's death last year, concerns over free speech have continued to mount and several people expressing opposition to the monarchy have been arrested. 

The police have been subject to criticism again for cracking down on the right to assembly after detaining several members of the anti-monarchy group Republic 

"This was a heavy-handed action which had the appearance of a pre-determined arrest that would have occurred regardless of the evidence or our actions," CEO of Republic, Graham Smith said in a statement.

Several environmental activists, some wearing t-shirts reading 'Just stop oil', were also arrested along the procession routes. 

Human Rights Watch condemned the arrests, saying "This is something you would expect to see in Moscow, not in London." 

The police adopted a low-tolerance policy on the day, seizing several placards that read 'Not My King' and 'Abolish the Monarchy' among others. 

A number of rape alarms were also seized by the police over concern from the military over the horses' and riders' safety.

The three people arrested over possession of rape alarms were reportedly volunteers with Night Stars Program which seeks to "promote women's safety and reduce violence against women and girls."

Labour Party MP Richard Burgon demanded a chance to discuss the policing in the Parliament, saying the issue must be taken seriously. 

King Charles III's oath obliged him to "seek to foster an environment where people of all faiths and beliefs may live freely" – a preface not included during Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953. 

Republic's CEO Smith said the arrests put a lie to the monarchy's claims of guarding democracy and freedom in the UK. 

"These arrests were not about protecting people from harm, but about protecting the King from embarrassment," he said. "What is the point of a head of state who will say nothing and do nothing to defend the people?"

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