London’s top police officer has defended the department against complaints about a heavy-handed response to protesters at the coronation of King Charles III
LONDON — On Friday, the top London police officer defended the department against complaints about a heavy-handed response to protesters at the coronation of King Charles III, saying his officers had intervened to prevent “serious disturbance and crime”.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said officers reacted to “rapidly developing intelligence”, suggesting the protests could affect the safety and security of the coronation events last Saturday.
The concerns raised were indications that protesters planned to use high-volume sound devices which could have panicked the horses and to block the procession between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey by locking things down along the road, Rowley said in a letter responding to questions from Mayor Sadiq. Khan.
“If our officers had not acted on reasonable grounds based on the evidence available to them about the timing and potential risk to the event, there would now be much more serious questions to answer about the event,” Rowley wrote. “Serious and reliable intelligence told us that the risks were very real.”
Rowley’s assessment came after it emerged that a monarchy supporter who had been waiting along the parade route hoping to see the new king was arrested and held for 13 hours simply because she was held near protesters in central London on Saturday. Alice Chambers called on the police department to put new processes in place to prevent the incident from happening again.
Anti-monarchy groups, environmental activists and civil liberties organizations have accused the police and the British Conservative government of stifling the right to protest by using newly enacted police powers to quell peaceful but disruptive protests on coronation day.
Republic, a group campaigning to replace the king with an elected head of state, has pledged to take legal action.
The UK’s recently passed Public Order Act, introduced in response to recent environmental protests that have disrupted transport across the country, allows police to search protesters for items such as locks and glue. It allows penalties of up to 12 months in prison for protesters who block roads or interfere with “national infrastructure”.
The new rules came into effect three days before the coronation.
Rowley said peaceful protests were allowed to continue, including a large group of anti-monarchist protesters along the parade route in Trafalgar Square.
“The protest was not banned,” he said. “While we said our tolerance for disruption of coronation celebrations was low, it was not zero.”