Home Office Minister Chris Philp has said that the Government recieved “specific intelligence” showing that protesters at King Charles III’s Coronation had planned to disrupt the occasion by “creating a stampede of horses and covering the ceremonial procession in paint”. His comments came after Labour MP Richard Burgen suggested that the Government’s Public Order legislation was “designed to clamp down on peaceful protest”. Mr Philp hit back, saying: “No, that is not the purpose of the Public Order Act.”
He added: “The Public Order Act is designed to prevent people deliberately disrupting the daily lives of their fellow citizens – which we have seen with locking on on public highways causing enormous traffic jams, stopping people getting to hospital, stopping people, getting their children to school, people being able to get to work.
“We’ve seen 10 mile tailbacks on the end 25 And we had specific intelligence that people planned to disrupt the coronation by creating a stampede of horses and covering the ceremonial procession in paint.
“The Public Order Act 2023 is designed to stop that kind of disruption, while of course allowing peaceful protest. That is its purpose.”
It comes after six anti-monarchy protesters were arrested on Saturday during the coronation celebrations.
The Government has brought forward legislation to allow the police to take a tougher stance against protests in a bid to protect the coronation with the eyes of the world watching.
This followed a series of climate change protests bringing infrastructure includng roads and rail to a halt as well as vandalising art work and buildings under the banner of Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil or animal rights groups.
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis spoke out against the arrests, saying: “Nobody should question that this was a difficult time for the Metropolitan Police and a difficult task to achieve. And nobody should question that in the large respect, they carried it out brilliantly and gave us a marvelous occasion this weekend.
“That being said – within one week of the Public Order Bill entering the law and in its first serious use, we end up with a head of the Met having to apologise to people who were wrongfully arrested.
“In the event that, let us say, the Home Affairs select committee reviews this matter and comes back with recommendations as to how we change guidelines or maybe laws – will the home office take it on board?”
But hitting back, policing minister Chris Philp denied that the Public Order Bill is “defective”.
Despite Mr Davis’ opposition, several Tory MPs have come out in support of the way the coronation was policed, including members of the influential rightwing Common Sense Group of Conservative MPs.
The chairman of the Common Sense Group Sir John Hayes warned that the protesters represented a small minority who were determined to spoil a day of national unity.
Sir John said: “These protesters represented a small minority of people who failed to understand the majesty and joy of the coronation and were determined to spoil it for the rest of us.
“The fact they were stopped from doing so is a tribute to proper policing and a prevailing common sense.
“This was a time for togetherness and gentle celebration not a time for narcissistic delinquency and hooliganism.”
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