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Anti-monarchy groups allowed to protest at Coronation, security minister says

Coronation protests will be allowed at the King’s Coronation, security minister Tom Tugendhat told BBC after one group planning a demonstration on the Coronation route received a letter, warning them of new laws banning “serious disruption”.

The Public Order Act came into effect on Wednesday and days beforehand, officials from the Home Office’s Police Powers Unit wrote two letters to Republic, an anti-monarchy organisation, to list how it had tightened laws on the right to protest.

One of the letters about tightened laws on the right to protest was “intimidatory” according to Graham Smith, the organisation’s chief.

The letter written by an unnamed official and sent on 28 April told Republic organisation: “I would be grateful if you could publicise and forward this letter to your members who are likely to be affected by these legislative changes.”

Republic is co-ordinating demonstrations across the UK and has held talks with the Met over a protest in London’s Trafalgar Square, as the King’s procession passes.

The group hopes up to 1,700 supporters will gather around the statue of Charles I, who was beheaded in 1649, and hold yellow placards declaring “Not My King”.

“We have no intention of doing anything disruptive”

The organisation’s chief Mr Smith said there had been two constructive face-to-face meetings with Scotland Yard’s public order commander, who had been entirely satisfied that the plan was legal and peaceful.

Mr Smith said: “We have gone through our plans – where we are going to be, what placards we have, and that we have no intention of doing anything disruptive. The police have repeatedly said they have no concerns about our plans and we can turn up and do what we are planning.

“The tone and the anonymity [of the 28 April letter] feels like a passive-aggressive attempt to put us off. I don’t know why the Home Office has sent this, given it’s the police’s job to police. The lawyers were perplexed why it was sent.”

Downing Street has said the “right to protest is fundamental”, with Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson saying the prime minister “would hope that everyone would come together and recognise this is a moment of national unity”.

Protests and any threats to crowds to be closely monitored

Defending the Home Office letters, Mr Tugendhat told the BBC that anti-monarchy groups have the “liberty that anybody in the United Kingdom has to protest, what they don’t have the liberty to do is to disrupt others”.

He added that the complexity of the security operation for the Coronation was heightened by the presence of foreign leaders.

“It’s perfectly possible that we’re dealing with protest groups that have nothing to do with the UK, but are seeking to protest against a foreign leader who’s visiting, or seeking to make a complaint about something that’s happening hundreds or thousands of miles away,” he said.

Mr Tugendhat refused to discuss what actions could be punished at the Coronation “for fear of encouraging people to find loopholes”, but said they were introduced in response to protests in the UK becoming “disruptive” and “intrusive”.

Low tolerance for any disruption with nearly 30,000 police officers

The Met said more than 11,500 police will be on duty in London on Saturday – including 9,000 on the procession route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey – and almost 30,000 involved in total in the lead-up and Bank Holiday weekend.

Firearms officers will be ready to respond to any incidents, alongside marine support on the Thames, the dogs unit and Special Constabulary officers.

Around 1,000 officers are being drafted in from forces elsewhere in the country to bolster numbers.

The Met said in a statement that its “tolerance for any disruption” would be low, and that it will “deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining this celebration”.

Central London is already being scoured and areas where explosive devices could be hidden, such as under manhole covers or inside lamp-posts, will be repeatedly checked.

The Met will also use live facial recognition cameras which scan faces and search for matches against a watch list – in this case, police say, people whose presence would “raise public protection concerns” including those wanted for arrest or have outstanding warrants.

(Source: BBC)

(Image: Twitter)


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