Police facing questions from MPs over treatment of coronation protesters

The Metropolitan Police is facing growing questions from MPs over officers’ treatment of protesters during the coronation in London on Saturday.

More than 50 anti-monarchy demonstrators were arrested during yesterday’s events – including 13 people to “prevent a breach of the peace”, and a man with an unused megaphone, who police said could “scare the horses”.

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The leader of campaign group Republic, Graham Smith – who was arrested during the protest – tweeted: “Make no mistake. There is no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK.”

There have been reports volunteers who were handing out rape alarms to keep women safe in the early hours of Saturday morning were also taken into custody.

Liberal Democrats deputy leader Daisy Cooper told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday she had “concerns” police did not get the balance right when it came to ensuring the event went ahead safely while allowing peaceful protest.

“Whether you are royalist or whether you are republican, we should all be able to agree on free speech and the right to protest,” she added.

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‘Tory legislation could be to blame’

Ms Cooper said new laws brought in by the Conservative government days ahead of the coronation, which give police more power to tackle disruptive protests, could be to blame.

The legislation carries up to a year in jail for demonstrators blocking roads, airports and railways, and lets officers stop and search anyone they suspect is planning to cause disruption.

The Lib Dem MP said the “far ranging, sweeping powers” would have “a real kind of chilling effect on the right to peaceful protest”.

While it was not yet clear if the measures were used by police on Saturday, it needed to be investigated, she added.

Met urged to provide ‘accountability’

Labour’s Wes Streeting also called for the force to provide “accountability” over the concerns that have been raised about its coronation operation.

The shadow health secretary told Sophy Ridge: “I think it’s the accountability that’s important.

“Where concerns have been raised, whether that’s by Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state, or people more generally just concerned about they’ve read in the papers or seen on the telly, it’s important that the police provide that accountability.”

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Police ‘accountability’ is ‘important’

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said police had to “balance the right to protest, which is important in a democracy” with the right of other people “to enjoy what was a fabulous day”.

“Overall, they managed to get that balance right,” she added.

The minister also defended the new laws, saying she had “huge confidence” in the police and trusted them to use the new powers.

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‘I have huge confidence in the police’

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Her Tory colleague, deputy party chairman and MP Lee Anderson, went further, however.

In a tweet on Saturday, he attacked protesters going to the coronation, saying: “Not My King? If you do not wish to live in a country that has a monarchy the solution is not to turn up with your silly boards. The solution is to emigrate.”

Senior Labour MP Sir Chris Bryant later tweeted: “Freedom of speech is the silver thread that runs through a parliamentary constitutional monarchy.”