Protesters hold white signs after anti-monarchy arrests

Protesters hold white sheets of paper and banners

People were arrested for holding anti-royalist slogans (Image: PA/AFP/Getty)

Demonstrators hold white signs during a demonstration in defense of freedom of speech after the arrest of some anti-monarchists.

About a dozen people stood in silence along St Giles Street in Edinburgh, just meters away from where Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin lay today.

Several protesters have been arrested in recent days for expressing their opposition to the monarchy as King Charles III ascends the throne.

A man was dragged away by police for holding a paper sign reading ‘Not My King’ outside the Palace of Westminster on Monday.

The Met Police later threatened to arrest a lawyer under the Public Order Bill if he wrote the same slogan on a white piece of paper he held in Parliament Square.

Anti-royal protesters in Edinburgh said they would not write anything on their plain paper for fear of being arrested by police patrolling the Royal Mile.

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Anti-royal protesters hold white placards at a demonstration against the policing of their protests, in Edinburgh on September 13, 2022, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8.  - British police faced criticism from civil liberties groups on Tuesday for their treatment of anti-monarchy protesters who publicly questioned King Charles III's ascension to the throne and for their public support for the royal family.  (Photo by Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP) (Photo by Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP via Getty Images)

One of the protesters said she feared the right to protest was at risk (Image: Getty Images)

Among those in the crowd was Amber Dawn, 33.

The University of Glasgow PhD student told Metro.co.uk that she joined the protesters for a simple reason: “The control of free speech for the ‘good of the nation’ or what goes into the media for that matter it’s fascism, not democracy.

“Whether you think we should abolish the monarchy or whether Scotland should stay in the UK, I think we can all agree that peaceful protest and free speech are worth defending.”

The demonstration was organized by a group of friends who stood outside until 2pm, an hour before the monarch’s motorcade was due to move into London, Ms Dawn said.

Anti-royal protesters hold white placards at a demonstration against the policing of their protests, in Edinburgh on September 13, 2022, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8.  - British police faced criticism from civil liberties groups on Tuesday for their treatment of anti-monarchy protesters who publicly questioned King Charles III's ascension to the throne and for their public support for the royal family.  (Photo by Oli SCARFF/AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

London police told a man he would face arrest if he wrote ‘Not my King’ on a piece of paper (Image: Getty Images Credit: AFP

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 13: Anti-royal protesters hold white placards at a demonstration against the way their protests have been policed, in Edinburgh on September 13, 2022, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8.  - British police faced criticism from civil liberties groups on Tuesday over their treatment of anti-monarchy protesters who publicly questioned King Charles III's accession to the throne and the groundswell of public support for the royal family.  (Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Concerns over the force’s handling of protesters are mounting among civil liberty groups (Image: Getty Images)

Ms Dawn said she joined the group after a woman was arrested in Edinburgh for holding a sign reading ‘F**k imperialism’. Abolition of the monarchy on Sunday.

She was holding the sign during the King’s accession announcement before police dragged her away.

Another man was arrested after asking “Who elected him?” at the county proclamation ceremony in Oxford.

The next day, a man was arrested for shouting “Andrew, you’re a sick old man” at the prince as he walked behind the Queen’s coffin and drove through Edinburgh.

“I think we don’t live in a democracy when you can’t have a peaceful protest without fear of being arrested,” Ms Dawn added.

She was not alone in this. Civil liberties groups have sounded the alarm about the overly aggressive police response to pro-democracy protesters.

Caption: A regal protester holding a 'not my king' sign is turned away before Charles III's speech (Image: REX)

Caption: A regal protester holding a ‘not my king’ sign is turned away before Charles III’s speech (Image: REX)

The right to protest is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, which the government has long seen that it will stay in.

Jodie Beck, policy and campaigns officer at human rights organization Liberty, said: “Protest is not a gift from the state, it is a fundamental right.

“Being able to choose what, how and when to protest is a vital part of a healthy and functioning democracy.

“It is deeply disturbing to see the police using their broad powers in such a heavy-handed and punitive way to suppress freedom of speech and expression.”

Ms Beck said the government’s police, crime and sentencing bill and the “draconian” public order bill were among the reasons this was happening.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 11: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains profanity) Regents hold a placard in protest during the Accession Proclamation Ceremony at Mercat Cross, publicly declaring King Charles III the new monarch on September 11, 2022 in Edinburgh , United Kingdom.  King Charles III ascended the throne of the United Kingdom after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on September 8, 2022. (Photo by Robert Perry/Getty Images)

An activist called on the government to “ensure” the right to protest (Image: Getty Images)

Both bills gave wider powers to police forces when it comes to protests, leaving it to the officer’s discretion whether it constitutes a “public nuisance”.

This is a much lower bar compared to how police previously decided whether to take action.

Before, the police had to determine whether a demonstration could lead to serious public disorder, property damage or serious disruption to community life.

“It is vital that the government, instead of weakening freedom of expression, protects our rights to protest,” he added.

For Ms. Beck, the government is using these laws as a club to discourage people from protesting and harshly punish those who do.

Emily Apple, communications co-ordinator for the Network for Police Monitoring (NETPOL) was not surprised by the detentions following the Queen’s death.

In fact, he said, he expected it at royal functions.

“Many times the police act arbitrarily and abuse their powers to crush dissenters,” Ms Apple said.

“Whenever there is a royal event, the police act disproportionately to ensure that dissenting voices are not heard on our streets.”

Ms Apple pointed to two other “false arrests” made during royal events.

“In 2011, people dressed as zombies were arrested during the royal wedding while sitting at Starbucks. In 2002, during the golden jubilee, 41 people were arrested sitting in a pub,” he said.

Contact our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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