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Head of anti-monarchy campaign group taking legal action over coronation arrest

Graham Smith gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee about his arrest earlier in the year (PA Wire)
Graham Smith gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee about his arrest earlier in the year (PA Wire)

The head of anti-monarchy campaign group Republic is taking legal action against the Metropolitan Police after he was arrested ahead of a pre-agreed protest on the day of the King’s coronation.

Graham Smith and five other members of the group were held on suspicion of going equipped to lock on – a tactic some protesters use to make themselves more difficult to move on – because they had luggage straps to secure their placards.

We expect a full apology and public acknowledgement that the Met got it wrong

Graham Smith

Republic chief executive Mr Smith, who was held for more than 14 hours, confirmed on Tuesday that he has applied for a judicial review of the decision to detain him.

He said: “We expect a full apology and public acknowledgement that the Met got it wrong. There were no grounds for detaining us, searching us or arresting us. It was an appalling attack on the rights of peaceful protesters.”

Mr Smith had discussed the planned demonstration for four months with senior Met staff, but says he was physically prevented from calling the group’s designated liaison officer when he was stopped and arrested on the day of the coronation on May 6.

The group were detained after new legislation came into effect days before the event that created new offences of locking on or going equipped to lock on under the Public Order Act.

On May 8 they were told no further action would be taken.

Police seized anti-monarchy placards (PA Media)
Police seized anti-monarchy placards (PA Media)

Mr Smith wants the Met to admit the arrests were unlawful and is seeking damages and costs.

A spokesman for the force said: “We can confirm that a Judicial Review Claim has been issued and, it would be inappropriate to comment on ongoing proceedings.”

The force came under criticism for heavy-handedness over arrests around the coronation, which also saw the detention of three workers on Westminster council safety scheme Night Stars because they had kits containing rape alarms.

Royal fan Alice Chambers was held for several hours after being arrested while standing alongside protesters on The Mall.