UK prime minister defends police after anti-monarchist arrests during coronation

LONDON – UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended the country’s police forces on Tuesday, emphasizing their operational independence after facing criticism for arresting anti-monarchists prior to a protest at King Charles III’s coronation.

Sunak expressed his support for London’s Metropolitan Police, which had been condemned for detaining six members of the advocacy group Republic just hours before Saturday’s event.

“They (the Met) make the decisions on the ground as they see fit,” Sunak told broadcasters.

“That’s the way that we’ve always done it. That’s the right way to do it. It wouldn’t be right for me to interfere with their operational decisions.”

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Graham Smith, 37 years old, the chief executive officer of Republic, was among those detained in central London despite liaising with Met commanders for months prior to the planned protest.

He claimed he had assurances the demonstration would not be interfered with.

Police used new powers, enacted only last week and devised to target environmental activists after years of disruptive protests, to detain the anti-monarchists throughout Saturday.

Following their release at the end of the day, the Met expressed regret on Monday that the protesters had been unable to participate in the protest as planned and revealed they would not face any further action.

Met Commissioner Mark Rowley defended the force, arguing that arresting officers were “vigilant, curious and proactive” and forming the “reasonable suspicion” that the group planned disruptions.

Despite the unfortunate circumstances faced by the six detainees, Rowley supported the officers’ actions, mentioning the unique, fast-moving operational context.

In parliament, policing minister Chris Philp praised the security operation, highlighting intelligence that included plots to cause severe disruption with activated rape alarms to induce stampedes and plans to soak procession participants with paint.

Philp noted that hundreds of people were permitted to protest on the procession route and maintained that police were operationally independent from politicians.

However, Smith criticised their treatment and on Sunday claimed that freedom to protest was now “contingent on political decisions made by ministers and senior police officers”.

Smith told Sky News on Tuesday, “It certainly appeared to be a premeditated decision to arrest us and disrupt our protest.”

He has requested a full inquiry into the matter, questioning why they were misled and who authorised the arrests.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is responsible for strategic direction of policing in the capital, also urged Rowley to conduct a review and make its findings public.

Khan expressed concerns in a letter to the police chief, stating he wanted “lessons learned”.

The prime minister’s spokesman confirmed there had been communication between the Met and the ministry, led by hardliner Suella Braverman before the coronation, amid speculation that she had requested the arrests.

However, the spokesman insisted such meetings were standard practice, saying, “There would always be communication between the Home Office and the police in the run-up to large-scale events.”

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With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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