Arrests in UK anti-monarchy protests spark controversy over free speech

Police arrest protesters as new monarch is being installed after Queen Elizabeth II's death

Ahmet Gurhan Kartal  | 15.09.2022 - Update : 16.09.2022
Arrests in UK anti-monarchy protests spark controversy over free speech FILE PHOTO


The controversy over the right to protest in the UK has come under the spotlight since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, as the British police’s handling of anti-monarchy protesters has been criticized.

The controversy came amid the shockwave caused by the death of the monarch last week after her 70-year-long reign.

British police arrested a woman in Edinburgh for holding an anti-monarchy sign, reading “Not my King,” targeting the new monarch, King Charles III, according to local media reports.

A protester who shouted and called Prince Andrew – who was the center of attention after being forced by the palace to resign from all his public roles over a scandal involving Jeffrey Epstein – “a sick, old man,” was the first to face arrest.

The incident took place during the procession that took the queen’s coffin from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to St. Giles’ Cathedral and a 22-year-old man was also arrested after being manhandled and shoved by some public members and a video of it has been largely circulated over the social media.

In a separate incidence, a barrister was warned in London by police that a placard saying “Not my King” would see him arrested. The barrister was holding an empty placard.


The reaction to the arrests has mounted on social media almost immediately after they took place, with many human rights activists joining.

The campaign group Republic has written to police forces to raise concerns about the latest arrests and notice that it expects “protests ahead of the coronation to be allowed to go ahead peacefully.”

Civil liberties groups and MPs also expressed alarm.

Neil Mackay, a journalist, wrote on Twitter: “Why is there no debate over monarchy?

“Republicans must be allowed to voice their opinion. Anti-monarchists are being denied any platform, or worse: silenced and even arrested. A hallmark of a confident and mature democracy is debate, not enforced conformity.”

A prominent Tory politician and former leadership contender David Davis asked the Scottish police not to “sacrifice the principle of free speech.”

“I wrote to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland yesterday, expressing my concern that an anti-monarchy protester has been charged by police,” Davis wrote on Twitter.

“Since I wrote to him, a second protester has been charged,” he added.

He further said: “At a time of national mourning, we should all ensure that we behave respectfully. But we must not sacrifice the principle of free speech upon which modern Britain is built.

“I am a staunch monarchist, but Republicans have as much right to voice their opinions as anyone else.”

Davis underlined in his letter that it is not for him to interfere in the judicial process.

“However, with the accession of our new monarch, I would hope that the police will continue to respect the right to free speech.

“If the individual concerned committed acts of violence, or the police had reason to believe she would, then action was obviously necessary.

“But if the individual was simply stating an opinion, I trust you agree that a liberal approach would be desirable.”

He added: “I speak as a strong monarchist, but nevertheless, I hope that members of the public will remain free to share their opinions and protest in regard to issues about which they feel strongly.”

New protest organized

A silent protest against the monarchy is also planned for Friday, the day when the new monarch will visit the Welsh capital, Cardiff.

“The protestors are meeting outside Cardiff Castle at 1 p.m. to stand together, holding posters with the slogans: ‘Why a Monarchy? Divine Right of Kings? Real democracy now’,” a report by local newspaper Nation Cymru reported.

“Campaigners want the Welsh public to consider whether a different future, without the monarchy, is possible,” it said.

They are also "calling upon Welsh Government and Cardiff Council leaders to ask the police to respect the democratic right to protest."

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