14 Sep 2022

Man claims he was threatened with arrest for sign about King Charles

From Morning Report, 7:57 am on 14 September 2022

An anti-monarchist protester in London says an outcry over arrests and threats of arrest has brought more people out and helped 'nip in the bud' any risk to freedom of expression.

Free-speech campaigners have said the arrests of anti-monarchy protesters after the death of Queen Elizabeth II are deeply concerning. Police in Scotland arrested two people in recent days, a man was arrested and de-arrested in Oxford, and protesters in London were asked to move.

Anti-monarchist protester, Paul, holds a sign reading 'Not My King' in London.

Anti-monarchist protester Paul holds a sign reading 'Not My King' in London. Photo: RNZ / Corin Dann

One of the protesters in London, Paul, told Morning Report presenter Corin Dann he was threatened with arrest for writing 'Not My King' on a sign.

"There's been a bit of an outcry online about that and police put out a statement saying 'actually we do respect freedom of expression'.

"We're here today to test that - and to give them their due they are letting us do this protest.

"It's actually brought more people out  - a range of different opinions, obviously most of them not in favour of the monarchy but expressed in very different ways"

Anti-monarchy protesters in London.

Anti-monarchy protesters in London. Photo: RNZ / Corin Dann

The Metropolitan Police said a member of the public had been asked to move from outside the Palace of Westminster "in order to facilitate vehicle access and egress through the gates" but had not been arrested or asked to leave the wider area.

In a statement, Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said: "The public absolutely have a right to protest and we have been making this clear to all officers involved in the extraordinary policing operation currently in place."

Index on Censorship chief executive Ruth Smeeth said the event must not be used by accident or design to erode freedom of expression.

"I think there was definitely a bit of a risk that a period of national mourning would be used to create no dissent, effectively," Paul said.

"I think the storm we saw online yesterday and today, and in the media, has really helped to nip that in the bud - and to say you can let people mourn the Queen respectfully and have their grief but actually at a time when the monarchy is bringing Charles on as the next King, and bringing his accession about, then we say we also have a right to object to that."