Police criticised for arrests during events to mark Queen's death

SNP, Labour and Green politicians have joined voices raising concern over recent action against protesters.

Police criticised for arrests during events to mark Queen’s death as four people charged in Scotland STV News

Police have been criticised after arresting and charging protesters during events to mark the Queen’s death.

Four people in Scotland have been arrested and charged with alleged offences for breach of the peace as the Queen’s coffin made the journey from Balmoral to St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Scottish politicians have raised concern about the arrests, including SNP MP Joanna Cherry KC.

She said: “I’m concerned by reports in Scotland and England of seemingly legitimate protestors being arrested.

“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.”

A 22-year-old man was arrested and charged after the Duke of York was allegedly heckled on the Royal Mile as the Queen’s coffin was carried up the Royal Mile on Monday.

On Sunday, a 22-year-old woman was arrested and charged after being spoken to by police on the Royal Mile while allegedly holding a sign that said “f*** imperialism, abolish monarchy”.

A 74-year-old man was also arrested and charged over alleged breach of the peace offences outside the Palace of Holyroodhouse, while a 38-year-old man was similarly arrested in the Duthie Park area of Aberdeen after allegations he was “seen with eggs” in view of the cortege.

Meanwhile, in Oxford, a 45-year-old man was arrested after he was allegedly heard to shout “who elected him?” during an event to mark King Charles III being proclaimed the new monarch.

The man is now being investigated in relation with a public order offence.

Concerns were also shared by SNP MP Amy Callaghan who said: “Republican views are as valid as any other. No-one should be arrested for just expressing that.”

Labour MSP Carol Mochan said she would be raising concerns about the incidents when parliament reconvenes.

She stated: “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. I will be raising my concerns when Parliament reconvenes.”

Scottish Green MSP Maggie Chapman said she would also be raising concerns with the Scottish Government’s justice department stating on Twitter: “Recent actions by Police Scotland arresting those protesting against imperialism and the monarchy are deeply concerning.

“Free speech underpins any democracy. Peaceful protest must be protected. I will be taking this up with [Scottish Government Justice Department] asap. Solidarity with those affected.”

Human rights organisation Liberty also issued a UK-wide statement raising concern about recent arrests and how new UK Government changes could affect the right to protest.

Jodie Beck, policy and campaigns officer at Liberty, said: “Protest is not a gift from the state, it is a fundamental right. Being able to choose what, how, and when we protest is a vital part of a healthy and functioning democracy.

“Whoever you are, whatever your cause, it is vital you are able to stand up for what you believe in without facing the risk of criminalisation. It is very worrying to see the police enforcing their broad powers in such a heavy-handed and punitive way to clamp down on free speech and expression.

“From restrictions on protest in the Policing Act to further attacks in the Public Order Bill – which rehashes the draconian measures thrown out of the Act, including protest banning orders and expansions of stop and search powers – the Government is making it harder for people to stand up for what they believe in. It is vital that instead of weakening our freedom of expression, the Government safeguards our protest rights.”

STV News has contacted Police Scotland for comment.

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