Arrests prior to the coronation

Graham Smith, the leader of Republic, was arrested prior to the coronation and held for 16 hours

May 2023

UPDATE: 8 May: Police express ‘regret’ at the arrest of Graham Smith. No charges will be brought under the new Public Order Act against any of those arrested. The only charges brought are for drugs related offences. Questions remain concerning why the arrests were made in the first place and what, if any, pressure had been put on the police to make them.

We have been warning for some time in previous posts – along with other organisations – that the desire by the present government and Home Secretary Suella Braverman, to limit the ability of individuals and organisations to protest by passing a series of laws to limit such activity and to give the police yet more powers to carry them out. The new Public Order Act was rushed into law and signed by King Charles just days before his coronation took place.

Using the act (it seems), Graham Smith the leader of Republic, an organisation which believes we should be run as a democracy and not have an inherited royal family at the head of the country, was arrested before the coronation took place. It is unclear on what the grounds the arrest was made and he was released after 16 hours. He was not the only one to be arrested and others included volunteers from Night Stars which prompted Westminster Council to say it was ‘deeply concerned’ by their arrest.

The new legislation arose because of the activities of the climate protestors who used a variety of methods to disrupt the capital including gluing themselves to pavements. Their protests did seem to shine a light on the poor performance by the government to tackle the climate emergency. They were not popular however and the disruption caused to commuters and others led the government to pass a range of laws to limit the ability to protest. The Home Secretary famously said in parliament that such people were “Guardian-reading, tofu eating, dare I say the anti-growth coalition”.

There is a tension when it comes to protesting. There are many who are in support of peaceful protests but are angry about those which are disruptive in some way or even where there is some violence. The problem with peaceful protests is that they are almost always ignored. It is the more violent type which become news and where the cause is thereby recognised. There were many decades of peaceful protests for women to have the vote for example which yielded nothing. Once more violent methods were employed by the suffragettes, change eventually occurred although there were other factors at play.

The Salisbury Amnesty group neither supports nor condemns the campaign for the country to be a Republic. The issue at stake is the right to campaign on the matter. There is no specific right of protest. We do have the right to free speech and we do have a right of assembly under articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention. Giving the police yet more powers to arrest on the pretext that the person might be disruptive is a worrying development. Another worrying development is the alleged use of facial recognition during the coronation. This technology has been widely used by repressive regimes such as China where the ability of people to move almost anywhere is tracked by the police.

Sources: Evening Standard, CNN, The Times, Amnesty International, and yes, the Guardian

Dangerous new bill

Dangerous new bill proposed by the government

The right to protest is fundamental to a free and fair society.  It’s a right we have fought long and hard for.  Without the right to protest, accountability and freedom suffers.

A New Policing Bill

The Government’s new policing Bill gets the balance dangerously wrong.  Such an enormous and unprecedented extension of policing powers will put too much power in the hands of the state, to effectively ban protests – including peaceful ones – should they see fit.

Vigil for Sarah Everard

Worse still, this Bill alongside other efforts by the UK Government to threaten and dilute other fundamental rights and freedoms.  The claims of excessive force used by Metropolitan police against women attending a vigil for Sarah Everard on 13 March, beggars belief, and is a stark and timely warning about precisely why Parliament must not grant police further powers to stop peaceful protest.

Racism and discrimination

As well as preventing peaceful protest, sections of this Bill will most likely disproportionately impact  people who are in the minority and increase the racism and discrimination that is experienced by many of them.  For example, measures to enhance stop & search and restrict the right to roam, precisely at a time when the UK Government should be working to address these issues.

This is not the path to a free and just society.  This is the path to a clampdown on our centuries old rights of freedom of movement, expression and assembly.  This is entirely incompatible with the UK’s self-image as a place of liberty.

We cannot allow this clampdown to happen.  Take action and call on our Prime Minister to put the brakes on the Bill and stop the assault on our freedoms.

Text taken from Amnesty International

Refugee video

Video of the Salisbury group’s refugee action

A few weeks ago, the Salisbury group mounted a short demonstration in support of a better understanding of the plight of refugees.  Refugees and asylum seekers get a bad press in the UK and the UN criticised the article in the Sun by Katie Hopkins referring to them as ‘cockroaches’ and ‘feral humans’.  A full discussion of the role of media in the debate on refugees and asylum seekers can be found in the 2018 report by the International Organisation for Migration particularly chapter 8 p191ff.

A film of our protest with interviews of two group members, was made by the Salisbury TV station ‘That’s TV’ and this can be seen on YouTube.

We issued a factsheet to passers-by on the refugee situation around the world and our role in it.  In the interview we mentioned the resettlement programme being managed by Wiltshire Council.

Refugee factsheet (pdf)

If you live in the Salisbury, Amesbury or south Wiltshire area generally and would like to join us you would be very welcome.  The best thing is to come along to an event we are running and make yourself known.  It is free to join locally.  Keep and eye on this site, or on Facebook or Twitter if you prefer, to see details of our next event.

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