London’s police chief dismisses complaints of heavy-handed response to coronation protesters

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LONDON (AP) — London’s top police officer defended the department on Friday against complaints of a heavy-handed response to protesters during the coronation of King Charles III, saying his officers intervened to prevent “serious disruption and crime.”

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said officers were responding to “rapidly evolving intelligence” suggesting protests could affect the safety and security of last Saturday’s coronation events.

The concerns were prompted by indications that protesters planned to use high-volume sound equipment that could have panicked horses and to block the procession between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey by holding things along the route, Rowley said in a letter in response to questions from Mayor Sadiq Khan.

“Had our officers not acted on the reasonable grounds based on the evidence available to them at the time and the potential risk to the event, much more serious questions about the event would now need to be answered,” Rowley wrote. . “Serious and reliable information told us that the risks were very real.”

Rowley’s assessment came after it emerged that a monarchy supporter waiting along the parade route hoping to see the new king was arrested and held for 13 hours simply for standing close to protesters in central London on Saturday. Alice Chambers has called on police to introduce new processes to prevent a recurrence of the incident.

Anti-monarchy groups, environmentalists and civil liberties organizations have accused the police and the British Conservative government of undermining the right to protest by using newly enacted police powers to quell peaceful but disruptive coronation day demonstrations.

Republic, a group campaigning to replace the king with an elected head of state, has pledged to take legal action.

The recently passed law on public order in the UK, introduced in response to recent environmental protests that disrupted transport across the country, allows police to search protesters for items such as locks and glue. It allows sentences of up to 12 months in prison for protesters who block roads or disrupt “national infrastructure”.

The new rules took effect three days before the coronation.

Rowley said peaceful demonstrations were allowed to continue, including a large group of anti-monarchist demonstrators along the parade route in Trafalgar Square.

“Protesting was not forbidden,” he said. “While we said our tolerance for disruption to the coronation celebrations was low, it was not zero.”

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