Republic raises concerns about issue and warns that it expects future protests to be allowed to go ahead peacefully
The campaign group Republic is writing to police forces to raise concerns about arrests of anti-monarchy protesters in recent days and serve notice that it expects protests ahead of the coronation to be allowed to go ahead peacefully.
In apparent reaction to the controversy, the National Police Chiefs’ Council said it had issued advice to forces on Tuesday.
A spokesperson said: “We know some people want to protest on a range of issues during this time of national mourning, and officers must balance these rights against those who wish to grieve and reflect. We have issued guidance to forces on how they should do this, in order to ensure a national consistency of approach.”
Civil liberties groups and MPs also expressed alarm, as activists gathered on Tuesday opposite the Edinburgh cathedral where the Queen’s coffin has been lying at rest, holding blank sheets of paper, a blank banner and saying they were standing up for “their right to protest”.
Scotland Yard was prompted on Monday night to issue a statement saying it had been “making it clear to officers that the public absolutely have a right to protest” after a barrister and activist tweeted footage of himself being threatened with arrest in Westminster’s Parliament Square if he held up a notice saying: “Not my king.”
Quan Nguyen, who was among the civil liberties activists who gathered opposite Edinburgh’s St Giles’ Cathedral, said: “We are here because people have been arrested or threatened with arrest for holding up anti-monarchy signs. If we did so now the police would take us away, which is why our signs now are blank.”
“I’m not against the Queen, but we should be allowed to ask questions at this time, about whether we still need the same type of monarchy, about the cost of living crisis, about nationalism.”
The group, who described themselves as concerned friends, were joined by some passersby. Alison told the Guardian: “This is a really busy Edinburgh street, where people are trying to get to their jobs or childcare but are being corralled. This is a public space and we have as much right to be here as the people attending the ceremonies for the Queen.”
Separately, a 22-year-old man who was arrested in Edinburgh on Monday afternoon after he shouted abuse at Prince Andrew – referring to allegations related to the prince’s friendship with the convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein – during the procession of the Queen’s coffin was charged with breach of the peace.
Two other people have been charged with breach of the peace in connection with the procession in Scotland, a woman who held up an anti-monarchy placard saying “fuck imperialism” and a 38-year-old man in Aberdeen.
Joanna Cherry, a barrister and Scottish National party MP, became the latest to voice alarm about the handling of protests, tweeting: “I’m concerned by reports in Scotland & England of seemingly legitimate protesters being arrested.”
“Whilst many might question whether this is an appropriate time for such protests, the right to protest is fundamental to our democracy & should be facilitated.”
The campaign group, Republic, meanwhile condemned arrests of anti-monarchy protesters in the last few days, with particular reference to a man who was arrested in Oxford during a proclamation event for the new King, where he had shouted: “Who elected him?,” and was then de-arrested.
“Free speech is fundamental to any democracy. At a time when the media is saturated with fawning over a king appointed without discussion or consent, it is even more important,” said Graham Smith, a spokesperson for Republic.
“We will be writing to police forces around the country, raising these concerns. We intend to organise protests at the coronation and will expect those protests to be allowed to proceed peacefully.”There were no further protests in Parliament Square on Tuesday, although the accession ceremony had passed, but among royalists and others who had come to lay flowers and tributes to the late Queen near Buckingham Palace there was criticism of any protests in the current period.
“It’s just not the time,” said Ian Riley, a Parachute regiment veteran who had come from Twickenham with his wife, Jean.
“We are in a period of national mourning and that to me is just not an opportune moment for protests against the monarchy.”
Jean, a retired NHS administrator, added: “We heard about what happened in a few places and to be honest we feel like it’s encroaching on a family’s grief. They’re in the public eye and should have some time and space.”