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Police Arrest Dozens for Peacefully Protesting King Charles III’s Coronation

New anti-protest laws have given UK police unprecedented power to clamp down on free speech and peaceful protest.

A protester holds a 'Not my king' placard at a demonstration in Trafalgar Square during the coronation of King Charles III, in London, U.K., on May 6, 2023.

Thousands of King Charles III’s subjects protested against the monarchy Saturday in London — and heavy-handed police detained many of them for “suspicion of breaching the peace.”

Earlier this week, the Metropolitan Police tweeted that they would have an “extremely low tolerance” of those seeking to “undermine” King Charles III’s coronation day.

“A significant police operation is underway in central London,” the Metropolitan Police said in a statement Saturday. “The individuals have been held on suspicion of breaching the peace.”

At around 7 a.m. police stopped six of the anti-monarchy group Republic’s organizers and told them they were detaining and searching them, Republic director Harry Stratton told CNN at the protest. The group had been walking behind a rental van containing hundreds of placards. “They didn’t say why they were arresting them. They didn’t tell them or us where they were taking them. It really is like something out of a police state,” Stratton said.

Among those arrested ahead of a protest in London’s Trafalgar Square was Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic.

“This morning, Graham Smith and five members of our team were arrested. Hundreds of placards were seized,” Republic tweeted. “Is this democracy?”

Protesters say police warned them not to chant ‘anything that may be deemed offensive.’

The Metropolitan Police said those arrested were being “held on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance.”

Just Stop Oil reported that around 20 of its climate demonstrators had been arrested, with photos showing a man wearing a T-shirt with the group’s name being detained in Whitehall. “He was arrested along with 20 others,” Just Stop Oil tweeted. “Free speech is a core British value — and we have just lost it. No supporters of Just Stop Oil arrested in the crowd had glue, paint or any plans to disrupt the coronation. We are living in a dystopian nightmare.”

Human Rights Watch’s UK director Yasmine Ahmed said in a statement: “The reports of people being arrested for peacefully protesting the coronation are incredibly alarming. This is something you would expect to see in Moscow not London.

“Peaceful protests allow individuals to hold those in power to account, something the UK government seems increasingly averse to.”

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive, said: “We need to see what details emerge around these incidents but merely being in possession of a megaphone or carrying placards should never be grounds for a police arrest.

“Peaceful protest is clearly protected under international human rights law and it’s been worrying to see the police this week making numerous statements about their ‘low tolerance’ for disruption at the coronation. The coronation shouldn’t become yet another excuse for undermining people’s basic human rights in this country and we’re awaiting more details over these concerning reports of arrests.”

“We’ve recently had the introduction of extremely draconian legislation outlawing ‘disruptive’ or ‘noisy’ protests, which has given the police excessive — and highly subjective — powers and seriously damaged people’s right of free speech and public assembly.

“The coronation shouldn’t become yet another excuse for undermining people’s basic human rights in this country.”

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