The campaign group, Republic have called for an investigation into the arrest of eight of their members, including Chief Executive Graham Smith, ahead of the organisation’s planned protest of the King’s coronation. This demonstrates the effects of the government’s anti-democractic legislation in practice, from the Public Order Act to the Online Safety Bill, our ability to engage in public debate is being attacked.
Attack on the right to protest
Even though Smith had liaised with police for months, the eight were arrested early on Saturday morning for allegedly possessing items that could be used for a “lock on” protest, under new powers rushed into laws days before the coronation. These items were in fact luggage straps used to carry placards, but as more than 20 organisations warned the Public Order Act 2023 is so ill-defined: “essentially any person walking around with a bike lock, packet of glue, roll of tape or twine, or any number of other everyday objects could be at risk of having been found to have committed this offence, so wide is the net cast by it”.
The previous night, the Met used the same powers to arrest three volunteers from Night Stars, Westminster city council’s safety campaign. Their ‘crime’ had been to carry rape alarms, which they intended to hand out to help women in the city stay safe. The Met, who are currently investigating around 800 officers for sexual and domestic abuse claims, later claimed that they’d had intelligence that alarms could be used to disrupt