Anti-monarchist planning peaceful protests sent ‘intimidatory’ letter ahead of King’s coronation

The Home Office warned campaign groups under the banner ‘Not My King’ of new laws brought in to prevent disruption

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Anti-monarchists planning peaceful protests at King Charles’ coronation have been sent an “intimidatory” letter from the Home Office warning against a new law.

The letter was sent to activists, including the campaign group Republic, by the Home Office’s Police Powers Unit saying new powers have been brought forward to prevent “disruption at major sporting and cultural events”.

Republic has been planning protests on Saturday (6 May) under the banner “Not My King”. The group said it has been in “direct contact” with liaison officers and has met with senior commanders who are “happy” for protests to go ahead, but it later received the letter warning about the new law.

The group described the letter as “very odd” and said it “has come out of the blue”.

The new Public Order Bill was given royal assent by Charles on Tuesday (2 May) and means that from today (Wednesday 3 May) protesters who block roads, airports and railways could face 12 months behind bars.

Anyone locking on to others, objects or buildings could also go to prison for six months and face an unlimited fine, while police will now be able to head off disruption by stopping and searching protesters if they suspect they are setting out to cause chaos.

In the letter the Home Office said: “I would be grateful if you could publicise and forward this letter to your members who are likely to be affected by these legislative changes.”

Republic has been planning protests on Saturday (6 May) under the banner “Not My King”. (Photo: Getty Images) Republic has been planning protests on Saturday (6 May) under the banner “Not My King”. (Photo: Getty Images)
Republic has been planning protests on Saturday (6 May) under the banner “Not My King”. (Photo: Getty Images)

Lawyers have told Republic that the letter could be viewed as intimidatory as it comes days before planned demonstrations in central London around the coronation.

Graham Smith, the campaign group’s chief executive, said the group was seeking assurances from the police that nothing had changed in relation to its plans to protest on coronation day.

He said: “We have been in direct contact with liaison officers and have met with senior commanders, who we have been very clear with about what we intend to do. Their response is that they are happy for us to proceed. But this letter has come out of the blue.

“Lawyers who we have been in touch with agree it sounds like intimidation and we are currently waiting for assurances from police nothing has changed.”

Insiders said other groups including Extinction Rebellion have been sent similar letters. Campaigners for freedom of speech say this development is a way of restricting peaceful and legitimate protests.

Jun Pang, a policy and campaigns officer at Liberty, said the new bill is “worrying” and the government is “once again evading scrutiny and accountability”.

Pang told the Guardian: “Key measures in the bill will come into force just days before the coronation of King Charles – a significant event in our country’s history that is bound to inspire a wider national conversation and public protests.

“At the same time, the government are using a statutory instrument to bring draconian measures that the House of Lords threw out of the bill back from the dead, once again evading scrutiny and accountability.”

Democracy campaigners said they had expected the new laws to be introduced on 15 June and were surprised that they had been brought forward to May.

Home Office sources insisted that the new laws had not been rushed through for the coronation but added that they may be a “signalling point” to police and protesters before Saturday. One told the Guardian that the letter sent to Republic was meant to inform and not intimidate.

A statement from Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “This legislation is the latest step the government has taken against protesters who use highly disruptive tactics to deliberately delay members of the public, often preventing them from getting to work and hospital, as well as missing loved ones’ funerals.

“The range of new offences and penalties match the seriousness of the threat guerrilla tactics pose to our infrastructure, taxpayers’ money and police time.”