London police said Monday night they "regret" that the six anti-monarchy protesters arrested Saturday ahead of the celebrations of the coronation of Charles III could not demonstrate as they had planned and stressed that no prosecution would be brought against them.
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Early Saturday morning, six members of the anti-monarchy group Republic, including their leader Graham Smith, were arrested in central London on their way to Trafalagar Square to protest at the King's Passage. The police had also seized their signs. They were released late Saturday, more than sixteen hours after their arrest, sparking strong criticism.
In a statement Monday night, the London police justified themselves at length by explaining that they had arrested six people "suspected of being equipped to chain themselves". Under a law that came into force Wednesday, criticized all the way to the UN, British police can arrest people in possession of equipment that could be used to chain themselves on public roads, a protest and blocking technique regularly used by climate activists in the United Kingdom.
The London police, however, added in its statement that "the investigation could not prove the intention to use (the seized objects) to chain itself and disrupt the demonstration.»
The arrest of Graham Smith and the other five members of Republic was sharply criticised by the hundreds of anti-monarchy protesters who had gathered to boo the carriage carrying Charles III to Westminster Abbey. "This is something we expect to see in Moscow, not London," Human Rights Watch said.
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Graham Smith said on Twitter that three police officers went to his home Monday night and apologized. "The excuse is not accepted," he said. Earlier in the day, he had criticised the new law on public order, which he said was introduced "to give them the power to arrest us under any frivolous pretext". In total, London police made 64 arrests on the day of the king's coronation, including environmental activists.