Officially, according to Scotland Yard, it is still a free country. The British public “absolutely” has the right to object.
But if you decide that you are not content to be a loyal subject of King Charles III, or you do not agree with his accession to the throne under an outdated hereditary monarchy system, fine. You should keep quiet. The message that people are allowed to protest — even if country of mourning the death of a 96-year-old monarch — did not seem to be on the radar of rank-and-file officers.
About a dozen people are known to have been arrested, or forcibly moved, after disrupting Queen Elizabeth II memorial processions or events marking Charles III’s proclamation. There were at least five arrests in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, where a week memorial event warm up behind the queen’s coffin to a hearse from Balmoral Castle, where she died last week.
They included a 22-year-old woman who was arrested Sunday for carrying a cardboard banner that read: “Damn imperialism. Abolition of the monarchy” and a 22-year-old man group out of the crowd after shouting, “Andrew, you’re a sick old man”, as the funeral parlor – with Prince Andrew in the prominent position – went down the Royal Mile. Both face charges of “violation of the peace”.
In Oxford, Symon Hill, 45, was on her way home from church on Sunday morning when she saw a group of local dignitaries, many in ceremonial attire “more suitable for the 16th century”, gathered. outside the city’s Carfax Tower.
They were there to attend a local ceremony to proclaim Charles III to the throne – at which point Hill, who had not planned any protest, simply shouted: “Who elected him?” He was arrested, threatened with charges, then arrested and sent home in a police car.
But the most bizarre “protest” happened on London’s Parliament Square on Monday, where Paul Powlesland, a 36-year-old climate activist and lawyer, simply held up a blank sheet of paper. It was provocative enough for an officer to confront him and demand an explanation.
The activist replied that he was thinking of writing “Not my king” on the piece of paper, prompting a Pythonesque exchange in which the police threatened to arrest him for a possible hypothetical message (a again, hypothetically) causing the offense and then unlawfully repeating it, asking for his personal details.
Powlesland, of course, borrowed a page from anti-war protesters in Russia, who branded white papers after being warned not to consider Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine a fight. They were shunned by Putin’s thugs regardless; Powlesland, a lawyer for the trial, decided not to write anything on his paper because he had to work the next day and couldn’t afford to spend the night in his cell.
Speaking to reporters after the encounter, Powlesland said: “I’m not really a Republican, or I haven’t been before this week. Like most British people, I vaguely dislike the monarchy. But this week, and what’s happening, has made me a republican.
“One of the many things that makes me proud to be British is our freedom of speech. It is one of our most precious and sacred rights and to me it is far more precious than royalty.”
After Powlesland’s tweet about his encounter went viral – his video was viewed more than 1.2 million times – Scotland Yard felt compelled to issue a statement: “The public is completely reserves the right to object and we have made this clear to all officers involved in the unusual policing operation currently taking place. ”
In their defense, it could be argued that the police were as caught up in national hysteria as the rest of the country after the death of a king who had reigned for 70 years. The ceremonial part of the royal handover and the queen’s funeral – known as Operation London Bridge – was long planned and detailed down to the minute. But many other organizations clearly didn’t know what to do.
For example, football matches were immediately suspended, but cricket was allowed to continue. Pubs and restaurants were packed as ever, but any “official” events from afar have been cancelled. One supermarket chain even muted their self-service checkout beeps as a “sign of respect” – but forgot to tell their customers, who shopped back and forth.
However, activists fear the crackdown on royal protesters is part of a more cunning pattern of British policy. Hill, the “protester” in Oxford, said he had been arrested under the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Act, a controversial law enacted by Boris Johnson’s Conservative government that civil liberties groups argue that imposing impossible restrictions on political protests.
“What other liberties can be suppressed in the name of a monarchy?” Hill asked in a blog post about your challenge. “If the fear of arrest prevents people from expressing their views, then these vile laws and draconian atmosphere will greatly reduce freedom of expression and damage democracy, whether people are charged or not.”