A police officer watches members of the anti-monarchy group Republic protesting on the day of the Coronation of Britain’s King Charles III. Image: Cathal McNaughton/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Coronation protests are still set to go ahead to demonstrate against the coronation of King Charles and the money being spent on it, despite warnings from London’s Metropolitan Police of a “low tolerance for disruption” at the event and promises to “deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining this celebration”.
Nic Lawley, spokesperson for the Labour for a Republic group, described the warnings as an “intimidatory tactic” in an aim to reduce the numbers of those protesting.
“It’s extremely disappointing to see the Met conduct that kind of threatening tone in their tweets,” he told the Big Issue. “We, and our friends at [campaign group] Republic, have engaged continuously with the police and they have shown no concern with our protests. We’re a very mild mannered bunch.”
Ken Ritchie, also part of Labour for a Republic, said he is still planning to join coronation protests in London, adding that the job of the police includes protecting the right to protest.
“Our tolerance for any attempts to limit our rights is low,” he said. “We will respond robustly if anything is done to prevent us from protesting.”
There is a growing number of people questioning whether they want a monarchy at all in the UK, and according to a recent YouGov poll carried more than one in four Brits now support abolishing the monarchy.
While many people up and down the country will be eager to watch the parade, others will be in Trafalgar Square to demonstrate against it. Anti-monarchy group Republic has said they expect up to 2,000 people to protest Charles and his procession.
It will be the first weekend after the Public Order Act came in allowing stricter policing of protests. The Met Police issued a hardline stance on Twitter but protesters are undeterred.
“People will say ‘no, it is really important for democracy and turn up’,” Lawley said. “Weather is more likely to affect numbers as there is heavy rain forecasted.”
Caspar Fish, who is still planning to join coronation protests on Saturday, described the Met’s stance and new anti-protest laws as a “scary step to authoritarianism” which made it more important to demonstrate.
“It’s sad we live in this country where we doff our caps like bumbling bootlickers to these people who don’t care about us,” he said. “There are people sleeping rough, people that can’t afford food and people who can’t heat their homes and we’re spending taxpayer money on this.”
The exact budget for the weekend has not been made public, but it is rumoured to be somewhere between £100 million and £150 million, with some outlets reporting it could cost up to £250ml. The exact figure should be known when the palace releases its annual financial report in June.
The coronation is classified as a state event so ultimately the taxpayer is footing the bill. It’s probably understandable then, as the country is in the depths of a cost-of-living crisis and public service strike action, some people are not planning to pledge allegiance to the new king.
Labour for a Republic advocate for a more open debate surrounding the royal family, who are exempt from 160 laws including the equalities act.
Lawley said: “We are going to see a lot of pageantry and ridiculousness over the coronation. The grown ups in the room are those asking to have a democratically elected head of state, not someone anointed by god with a special oil.”
On Wednesday, the Met Police shared a thread boasting the “largest one day mobilisation of officers seen in decades with over 11,500 officers on duty” it has planned for the big day.
They also warned “Our tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low. We will deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining this celebration.”
The new Public Order Act became law just in time for the weekend. The laws introduced include year-long prison sentences for protesters who block roads, six-month sentences or unlimited fines for anyone who locks on to others, objects or buildings, and enhanced police powers to stop and search protesters they suspect are trying to cause “disruption”.
The UN High Commissioner warned the legislation went against international human rights, saying it “imposes unnecessary and disproportionate criminal sanctions on people organising or taking part in peaceful protests”.
The act was fast-tracked into becoming law just days before the coronation, although Home Office minister Tom Tugendhat insisted the timing was coincidence.
Lawley said: “It’s important we stand up to this. It is the first test under the new law and if we can show we can democratically and peacefully protest this abhorrent assault on our democracy we will show we can stand up for other issues that need to be talked about.”
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