Republic CEO Graham Smith, who is demanding an inquiry into how he and five colleagues were arrested, said the right to protest peacefully in Britain no longer existed, only a "freedom to protest that is contingent on political decisions made by ministers and senior police." File photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE
May 9 (UPI) -- London's Metropolitan Police have apologized to a group of anti-monarchists who were wrongfully arrested and detained on the morning of the coronation of King Charles III after being assured their protest was legal.
The six people, all from the group Republic including its CEO Graham Smith, have had their bail canceled and no further action will be taken following an internal investigation, the Met said in a news release.
"We regret that those six people arrested were unable to join the wider group of protesters in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere on the procession route.
"It was not clear at the time that at least one of the group stopped had been engaging with police Protest Liaison Team officers ahead of the event. The Protest Liaison Team were not the arresting officers nor were they present in St Martin's Lane at the time of the arrest."
The Met said the six were arrested on suspicion of going equipped for a new offense of "locking on" [shackling or gluing oneself to street furniture such as railings to avoid being removed] because they were in possession of straps when their vehicle was stopped.
Smith said police were informed that it was not "physically possible to 'lock on'" with luggage straps and that they were told that the straps were support braces to help demonstrators keep hefty placards aloft.
Smith said he had rejected a personal apology from a chief inspector and two other officers at his home in Reading on Monday evening, saying what had happened was a "disgraceful episode," that required a "full inquiry" into how the arrests were authorized.
"The speed with which they did this demonstrates they were very quickly aware they had made a very serious error of judgment and there will be action taken again," said Smith. "I'm obviously relieved they dropped it so quickly but very angry they even went down this road, robbing people of their liberty for absolutely no reason.
"There was no evidence of any ability or intent to commit any offense and they simply decided to arrest us and that is outrageous."
Smith, who said Republic was considering legal action against the Met, was among 64 people arrested Saturday during the coronation, 32 of whom were charged with conspiracy to cause a public nuisance and released on bail, while another 14 arrested for breach of peace have also been bailed.
Police said one person was charged with "a religiously aggravated offense," while two others were charged with possession of a class A drug.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak backed the new policing powers that were used to arrest protestors contained in the controversial Public Order Bill passed last week and was emphatic that police operated independently of government.
"Of course, people have the right to protest freely but peacefully, but it is also right that people have the ability to go about their day-to-day lives without facing serious disruption," said Sunak.