Coronation arrests show protest is now a privilege – not a right

The political clampdown on protest: it seems Graham Smith of Republic (in the yellow) was arrested because of his political views, not because he was protesting in an illegal way – because he wasn’t.

The  big story of the coronation weekend fell to new depths when the Tory government tried desperately to justify its punitive Public Order Act in response to an Urgent Question in the House of Commons.

Policing Minister Chris Philp actually tried to get us to believe the Metropolitan Police had received “intelligence” saying that rape alarms would be used to frighten police horses during the street parade.

He told the House of Commons: “Commissioner Mark Rowley has outlined the intelligence picture in the hours leading up to the coronation. It included more than one plot to cause severe disruption by placing activated rape alarms in the path of horses to induce a stampede and a separate plot to douse participants in the procession with paint.

“All plots to disrupt the coronation were foiled by a combination of intelligence work and proactive vigilant policing on the ground.”

There’s just one problem with this: There were no plots to do any of the things Philp suggested. If there had been, arrests would have been followed by criminal charges and, eventually, imprisonment. They weren’t.

Let’s see what Philp had to see about the people who were arrested: “the arrests included a person wanted for sexual offences, people equipped to commit criminal damage with large quantities of paint, and arrests on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance, often backed by intelligence.”

A statement from the Met has clarified that eight of the 64 arrests made on Coronation Day had nothing to do with protest but included drugs offences and possession of an offensive weapon. Four charges have been brought, and although the police have deliberately confused the issue, it seems likely that none of these had anything to do with protest.

Allow me to reiterate: as far as we can tell, nobody involved in protest was charged with any offence at all.

Philp refused to discuss the arrest of three members of the Night Stars organisation that hands out rape alarms to vulnerable women walking London’s streets in the dark of night. Without any further information, we must conclude that this is the origin of the claim about rape alarms – and that the claim was unfounded.

I fear what may have happened with the Night Stars unable to carry out their work from a police cell. If one or more vulnerable women were attacked – and remember this is in London, where critics of the police say rape might as well be legal these days – what were they supposed to do? Grin and bear it?

In the face of Philp’s nonsense, others tried to inject some accuracy into the debate, only to suffer the ill-mannered contempt of the minister:

Those were two Labour MPs making the point about the Public Order Act, under which the arrests were made. One would have expected them to have enjoyed the support of their party leader – but sadly this has not been the case:

On the subject of “bedding in”, this Twitter user makes the operative point:


Indeed, Starmer’s attitude now is the exact opposite of his thinking a few years ago:

It’s more hypocrisy from the Labour leader.

Philp, on the other hand, told MPs that the Public Order Act is designed in a way “allowing peaceful protest” – and this is the point: It allows protest, in a country were protest is everybody’s right.

He claimed that “the law allows peaceful protest where it is not disruptive and where people do not plan to cause disruption, which is why hundreds and hundreds of people… were able to protest peacefully. Where someone is preparing to commit or is committing a criminal offence, such as disrupting a procession, it is reasonable for the police to act.”

But this is nonsense, most particularly because it was in reply to Caroline Lucas’s accurate point: “Those who were arrested and kept in were not causing an obstruction… does this not show that the powers the Government have handed to the police are dangerously broad and liable to gross misuse, as many of us have pointed out?”

We are left with the inescapable conclusion that the police targeted particular people or groups, including the representatives of anti-monarchy group Republic who have already received a considerable amount of attention, while leaving others alone.

That adds a totalitarian, dictatorial political dimension to the Public Order Act:

Under Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives, dissenting voices are now silenced and protest is neutered. And Keir Starmer – who should be standing up for your rights – supports it.

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1 thought on “Coronation arrests show protest is now a privilege – not a right

  1. Stu

    “Cuckoo in the Nest” Starmer’s Agenda is becoming clearer by the day.
    He is doing everything in his power to make Labour unelectable, his “Right Wing” leanings will not attract Tory voters, they will always stick with what they know and never vote Labour.
    Next Election, will result in the previous Labour base being fragmented and split between Greens, LibDems and Independents as they know they can’t trust Starmer.
    This leaves an open Highway for the Tories to continue.

    Who knows, maybe Starmer will finally be honest for once in his life and “Cross the Floor”.

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