Protesters were arrested during the King’s coronation

In a controversial legal battle, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, is facing a lawsuit over the arrest of Graham Smith, the chief executive of Britain’s leading republican movement, during the King’s coronation. This case is viewed as the first test of new protest laws and has ignited a debate over freedom of speech and the use of police powers.

Smith, who was detained for 14 hours on May 6th, is seeking a judicial review of the lawfulness of his arrest, along with damages and an admission of fault from Scotland Yard. The arrest was made under new public order laws, allowing the police to arrest those suspected of “going equipped to lock on.”

Critics argue that the police’s handling of the coronation protests was heavy-handed, with only a few charges resulting from the numerous arrests made that day. Smith’s lawyers contend that he had taken extensive measures to ensure a peaceful protest and had cooperated with the police in planning the event.

Despite discussions and assurances from Scotland Yard, Smith and his colleagues were arrested while transporting banners for the protest. The arrest was made based on the presence of extendable luggage straps in a van, which the police claimed could be used for locking on. Smith’s lawyers argue that there were alternative means to prevent disruption, such as seizing the banners, and that the arresting officer lacked reasonable grounds for suspicion due to Smith’s cooperation with the police.

In May, the Metropolitan Police expressed regret for the arrests and cancelled the bail of the six protesters, acknowledging that there was no evidence of an intent to lock on. However, Smith has indicated that he intends to take legal action against the police.

This case has raised questions about the balance between the right to protest and maintaining public order during significant events like a coronation. 

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