On King Charles III’s procession route, five additional anti-monarchist demonstration organizers and the leader of the UK’s most influential republican movement were detained.
Graham Smith, the chief executive of Republic, was arrested by police on the Strand in downtown London while he was collecting beverages and posters for protesters at the main protest site in Trafalgar Square.
When the group was halted by police, they were following a rental van loaded with hundreds of banners. In a tweet earlier this week, the Met police stated that they would have “low tolerance” for anyone attempting to “undermine” the day.
Harry Stratton, a director at Republic, who arrived as Smith and the others were detained, said: “They were collecting the placards and bringing them over when the police stopped them.
“The guys asked why and they were told: we will tell you that once we have searched the vehicle. That’s when they arrested the six organisers. We asked on what grounds they had been arrested but they wouldn’t say. It is a surprise as we had had a number of meetings with the police. They had been making all the right noises.”
Hundreds of anti-monarchist protestors had assembled in Trafalgar Square at around 7.30 a.m. with giant flags and wearing yellow T-shirts in an effort to attract the attention of both the international media and a king on the day of his coronation.
Those who planned to protest as Charles III’s coronation procession past them acknowledged they were “heavily outnumbered” as they stood by London’s oldest statue of Charles I, who lost his head to republicans nearly 400 years ago.
By noon, 2,000 demonstrators, including members of the Swedish, Dutch, and Norwegian republican groups, are anticipated to congregate beneath Nelson’s column.
The little group, however, was surrounded by both those out to celebrate and the columns of police officers walking into their positions early on Saturday morning, beneath a menacing grey sky.
The protest, organized by the long-standing anti-monarchy organisation Republic, will be calm, according to Maria Gomez, 39, of Boreham Wood, Hertfordshire. She hoped to avoid conflicts with those who had come to celebrate.
“Some were shouting ‘burn the yellow flags’ earlier but we have had intimidation before – there were eggs thrown in 2012,” she said. “People can get very angry with republicans.”
Radical Haslan, 29, a student who had come from Manchester, said he would be “staying safe with the others” at Trafalgar square, but some were planning to stand in other positions along the procession route “to make our feelings known”.
All those who had congregated to express their opposition to the monarchy were not fully comforted by the presence of 11,500 police officers, the greatest police operation ever seen in the UK.
All of the anti-monarchy movement’s more well-known figures have attended the protest, including 23-year-old Patrick Thelwell, who was convicted last month of a public order offense for hurling five eggs at the king while the monarch was visiting York.
“I’ve absolutely not brought any eggs”, he said. “My parole officer tells me counter-terrorism is following me. I am sure that I will be arrested anyway. It will be interesting to see how far we have descended into being a fascist country.”
People gathered at Trafalgar intended to jeer and wave their bright yellow flags as the king’s procession passed them on its route from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace.
Labour MP Clive Lewis, human rights activist Peter Tatchell, and Paul Powlesland, the attorney who was threatened with jail for holding up a blank piece of paper following the death of the queen, were all slated to make speeches.
Imogen McBeath, 21, a campaigner associated with the No More Royals organization, said they would not attempt to elicit a response but instead wanted to make a point quietly. They describe their message as a “declaration from the young, the queer, and the dismissed.”
The group has targeted sculptures in the past, and McBeath gained notoriety when she and her lover Riz scaled the security fence at Windsor Castle and sat on a bed that was originally built for King Charles II in 1670 while reading Prince Harry’s book Spare, kissing, eating junk food, and reading.
“This is the biggest monarchist event and so we had to be here,” she said. “But we don’t want to provoke anyone.”
Restaurant owner Loretta Caughlin, 56, of Penzance, Cornwall, claimed to have belonged to Republic for 17 years. “I first learned about Republic in 2006, and that’s when I realized I’m not alone. We have a big group.