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by Kirsteen Paterson
13 September 2022
Royal protests: Concerns raised over policing following Queen’s death

Royal protests: Concerns raised over policing following Queen’s death

Concerns have been raised by Scottish politicians following the arrests of people protesting during events related to the death of the Queen.

Members of Labour, the Scottish Greens and the SNP have commented after a series of arrests in Scotland and England, as has former Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins.

A woman was arrested in Edinburgh on Sunday during the Accession Proclamation for the King. The incident took place outside St Giles's Cathedral and she is due to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on a charge of breach of the peace at a later date.

Images showed a woman holding a sign which included the words "abolish monarchy".

Symon Hill was arrested in Oxford that same day for shouting "who elected him?" as he passed a proclamation event. He was later released but is being investigated over a public order offence.

Yesterday, a 22-year-old man was arrested after Prince Andrew was heckled on the Royal Mile. Today, he was charged with a breach of the peace, and will appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on an undisclosed date.

Writing on social media, SNP MP Joanna Cherry KC said she was "concerned" by reports of "seemingly legitimate protestors being arrested". She tweeted: "Whilst many might question whether this is an appropriate time for such protests, the right to protest is fundamental to our democracy and should be facilitated."

Her party colleague Amy Callaghan said: "Republican views are as valid as any other. No one should be arrested for just expressing that."

Maggie Chapman of the Scottish Greens recirculated a tweet which asked: "Guess which one of these gets you arrested in Scotland? A: standing outside a specialist rape clinic, filming and shouting at patients while wielding a sign about murder or B: holding an 'abolish the monarchy' sign?"

Meanwhile, Labour MSP Carol Mochan tweeted that she will be raising concerns when the Scottish Parliament reconvenes: "I share the concerns of many regarding reports people have been arrested for expressing their views in support of a republic. 

"Everyone has the right to express their opinions peacefully, this sets a dangerous precedent."

And Tomkins, a constitutional lawyer, said: "Anyone choosing this moment to protest by placard against the monarchy in crowds of mourners is insensitive to the point of boneheaded crassness. But they should not be arrested for expressing their views unless their words incite violence."

Concerns have also been raised by organisations supporting free speech. Naomi McAuliffe, of Amnesty International, said: "It's incredibly important that at all times, even those of national mourning, that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful protest are upheld. No one should be arrested for peacefully expressing their opinion. Protest can be annoying, or even upsetting to some, but it is absolutely essential for a rights respecting society."

Jodie Beck, of civil liberties charity Liberty, said it was "very worrying to see the police enforcing their broad powers in such a heavy-handed and punitive way", adding: "Protest is not a gift from the state, it is a fundamental right."

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