Police who arrested protesters for holding up pieces of paper with anti-monarchy slogans did not understand the law, a top officer has admitted.
Ken Marsh, chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation, acknowledged people have a “100 per cent” right to stage such protests – amid anger over heavy-handed crackdowns across the country.
There should be “no issues whatsoever” when they take place, he said, adding: “That’s part of our democracy, that’s what we are.”
Asked why, in that case, there have been arrests or threatened arrests in London, Edinburgh and Oxford, Mr Marsh first argued “the messaging wasn’t correct”.
He then admitted: “It was clear that some of my colleagues weren’t aware what people can and can’t do in terms of holding up pieces of paper.”
The embarrassing admission comes after a woman was led away from parliament by police after she unfurled a hand-drawn sign reading ‘Not My King’ on Monday.
In Oxford, a man was arrested and handcuffed by police after he inquired ‘who elected him?’ during a proclamation ceremony for King Charles III.
In Edinburgh, a woman who held up an ‘abolish monarchy’ sign was charged with breaching the peace – as was a man who heckled Prince Andrew as he walked behind the Queen’s coffin.
And, in London, a barrister filmed himself being threatened with arrest by an officer who warned him that writing ‘Not My King’ on a piece of paper was unacceptable because if ‘”may offend” people.
Paul Powlesland likened the incident to police in Russia dragging away a woman for holding up a blank piece of paper to protest against the invasion of Ukraine.
Keir Starmer refused to comment on the police’s actions, instead urging republicans to respect supporters who had made “a huge effort” to pay respects to the Queen.
“Obviously we have to respect the fact that some people disagree. One of the great British traditions is the ability to protest and to disagree, but I think if it can be done in the spirit of respect,” the Labour leader said.
“Respect the fact that hundreds of thousands of people do want to come forward and have that moment, don’t ruin it for them.”
Mr Marsh also described the Met’s officers as “probably the best in the world” in terms of ensuring security at the Queen’s lying in state, at Westminster.
“There are a lot of things in place where action can be taken to prevent a terrorist attack or any other sort of attack towards members of the royal family,” he told BBC Radio 4.
And, on the policing operation, he said: “It’s very challenging, it’s the biggest thing we’ve had to put in place for a public area.
“And bear in mind this is completely public where everyone will be standing and gathering. So, it’s a real challenge for us purely because of the numbers.”