A government minister has accused some anti-monarchy protesters of planning to cause “dangerous” disruption during the coronation, despite the Metropolitan Police expressing “regret” for arresting them.
The force faced a backlash after detaining a number of members of the campaign group Republic over the weekend, and has now said their investigation was unable to prove intent to disrupt the event.
But health minister Neil O’Brien appeared to stand by the arrests, despite the Met’s statement, saying it seemed “pretty clear some of the people there were going to cause really serious and dangerous and stupid disruption”.
He told Sky News that he didn’t have “any objection to peaceful protests” and “in some cases [the force] might have been wrong”.
But he also argued “in some cases, they did the right thing”, as it was “also a question of what [protesters] were going to do“.
The minister added: “What [the police] have to do is to stop people doing things that are potentially really dangerous.
“If someone would come off a horse and been trampled by all those horses, they could have lost their life.
“And the police have got to balance that against, you know, you can’t always prove before someone does something terrible that they are about to disrupt an event.”
Mr O’Brien continued: “Mistakes are sometimes made [but] they have got to take a judgement on keeping the public order and keeping an important national event going without people doing things that could have been really dangerous.”
‘No evidence of intent’
Graham Smith, the chief executive of Republic who was one of eight people in his group arrested and detained for several hours, accused the minister of “wild speculation”, saying there had been “no intelligence supporting the arrests”.
He told Sky News: “There was no evidence of any intent or capacity to commit any offence.
“There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by the eight people from Republic who were arrested at all.
“There was no intent. There was no evidence of any intent.
“There was no evidence of any equipment being carried that would have caused the crime.
“And we were very clear with the police for four months [about] the details of our plans, and they were very clear to us that they were okay with those plans.”
Mr Smith said the group was now consulting with lawyers about their next steps and would continue to protest against the monarchy while calling for an elected head of state.
Officers arrested 64 people on coronation day, with 46 of those later bailed after being detained on suspicion of causing a public nuisance or breaching the peace.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had backed the Met over the arrests ahead of the latest statement from the force, despite concerns they were cracking down on dissent on Saturday at the behest of politicians.