Head of UK anti-monarchy protesters released after 16 hours in detention

Chief executive of the anti-monarchy group Republic, Graham Smith, has been released from detention, 16 hours after being arrested by London police ahead of King Charles’s coronation.

Smith, who was among 52 people being arrested near Trafalgar Square on Saturday, blasted the UK government’s violation of the freedom of expression, posting to Twitter that there was “no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK”.

“I have been told many times the monarch is there to defend our freedoms. Now our freedoms are under attack in his name,” he wrote on Twitter.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Monday, Smith said that the police had “every intention” of arresting him before the coronation event, adding that he was held despite being in close conversation with the Met “for four months” about the group’s plans.

“They also said they had intelligence, which is untrue. If they did have intelligence their intelligence officers are either lying or incompetent because there was never any discussion, thought, email, message, anything that suggested any intent to do anything disruptive,” Smith went on.

Rejecting the suggestion that his arrest was necessary to limit disruption, he told the program: “That’s not an excuse to rob people of their rights. It’s not an excuse to arrest people and detain them for 16 hours because some people want to enjoy a party.”

He said that his arrest along with other protesters was a “political issue” and the politicians had ordered the police to carry on the arrests.

“We no longer in this country have the right to protest, we only have the freedom to protest contingent on the permission of senior police officers and politicians, and it’s my view that those senior police officers were under immense pressure from politicians,” Smith said.

Speaking among the protestors earlier on the day of the coronation, Smith depicted the coronation ceremony as an “expensive pantomime” and a “slap in the face for millions of people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.”

UK Metropolitan Police confirmed 52 people were arrested on the allegations of affray, public order offenses, breach of the peace, and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance around the coronation. Besides arrests, the police also attacked the protestors and seized hundreds of protestors’ placards.

The Met said a further 14 people were detained in east London on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.

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