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Met Police Accused of Twisting the Truth Over Coronation Arrests – As Labour Refuses to Back Bid to Repeal Controversial Protest Law

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Commons session turns to farce as Conservative Deputy Chair suggests all protestors should just stand for election instead, Josiah Mortimer reports

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Eight Just Stop Oil protestors have been arrested in Parliament Square for breaching a protest ban imposed by police – while another five activists were removed from Parliament for disrupting a Metropolitan Police hearing on arrests made at the Coronation. 

It comes after an SNP effort to repeal the Public Order Act was defeated on Tuesday night, with it accusing Labour of giving the controversial anti-protest legislation a “new lease of life”. Keir Starmer’s party abstained en masse on calls to end the “dystopian” protest legislation, the SNP said. 

Not a single Labour MP voted for repeal, in an opposition day debate from the Scottish party that was dubbed a “stunt” by the Labour frontbench. 

On Wednesday, the Home Affairs Committee grilled senior policing figures Matt Twist, Temporary Assistant Commissioner at the Met; and Chris Noble, Chief Constable and protest lead at the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

There have been 67 protests in London since the Public Order Act was passed, Twist claimed, with very few involving arrests under the new law.

“There is a strong presumption in favour of the right to protest,” he said – despite eight peaceful Republic campaigners being detained for 16 hours alongside dozens of other campaigners from groups such as Animal Rebellion and Just Stop Oil.

He added that the Mayor of London had been briefed before King Charles’ Coronation that there’d be a “concerted attempt” to disrupt the procession and officers were asked to be “vigilant in dealing with this”.

But SNP MP Alison Thewliss noted that there was no history of Republic using “locking on” devices. Despite this, they were detained for possessing luggage straps that held placards together. 

The Met’s Deputy Commissioner, who also appeared before the committee, made a startling confession that “the whole command team would have been alert to engagement with Republic… We would have been notified and expecting it”.

For Republic’s CEO, Graham Smith, this raised the question of why the arrests went ahead. The group had liaised with the police for months before the protest. 

Smith told Byline Times: “Being generous here, the Met Police are being disingenuous. Some of the statements they made were clearly false.” 

The Met’s Deputy Commissioner claimed that much of the delay to the activists  being released from cells after 16 hours was due to some of the campaigners only having one solicitor between them. 

But Smith said: “My solicitor said they were there at 1pm, but they were only called in at 6pm. There are lots of questions about why it took so long, and why they detained us for any length of time for a non-custodial offence, with no evidence.”

Officers on the ground on Coronation day did not seem to know what sort of organisation – despite the Home Office writing to the group just days before, and the group being in close liaison with the Met Police and Westminster Council beforehand. 

“On the one hand, they said they had credible intelligence [about disruption],” said Smith. “On the other hand, they claimed they had no idea who we were. They were well aware of who we were. And they did have lots of intelligence – which we provided them. They ignored all that.” 

Vote to Repeal

The SNP’s Opposition Day Debate centred around the Public Order Act which the party claimed has seen rights to democratic protest dramatically curbed. 

But the vote to scrap the legislation fell due to Conservative votes against and Labour abstentions.

A spokesperson for Just Stop Oil claimed that Labour was now “the great appeasers of an illegal and authoritarian regime”.

The SNP’s Home Affairs spokesperson, Alison Thewliss, said: “Labour’s commitment to retaining Tory policy has given the dystopian anti-protest bill a new lease of life, after they refused to support SNP plans to scrap it last night.

“This shameful legislation is one of the most draconian pieces of law to pass through Parliament in recent memory – it’s exactly the type of policy you’d expect to see Labour opposing. Instead they’ve cosied up again with their Tory pals to ensure its future.”

She added: “The question people in Scotland will rightly be asking is: what exactly does Starmer’s Labour Party stand for?”

Labour’s spokesperson Sarah Jones told the Commons: “Some protests go too far – I make no apologies for saying that. To see a painting splattered with paint: too far. To see ambulances blocked on roads: too far.

“The Labour Party has always stood with the people of this country in saying that such disruptive activities are unacceptable. It is our job as legislators to come up with proposals that solve problems, not create them.”

Defending Labour’s refusal to back repeal of the Act, she said the party was “serious about governing” rather than “political stunts”.

“We refuse to be drawn into the political games of two parties that are paralysed by crises of their own making,” she added, chiding the SNP.

The 56 MPs who voted to repeal the Public Order Act:

Hannah Bardell, Scottish National Party

Mhairi Black, Scottish National Party

Ian Blackford, Scottish National Party

Kirsty Blackman, Scottish National Party

Deidre Brock, Scottish National Party

Alan Brown, Scottish National Party

Amy Callaghan, Scottish National Party (proxy vote cast by Brendan O’Hara)

Lisa Cameron, Scottish National Party

Wendy Chamberlain Liberal Democrat

Douglas Chapman, Scottish National Party

Joanna Cherry, Scottish National Party

Jeremy Corbyn Independent

Ronnie Cowan, Scottish National Party

Edward Davey Liberal Democrat

Martyn Day, Scottish National Party

Martin Docherty, Scottish National Party

Dave Doogan, Scottish National Party

Allan Dorans, Scottish National Party (proxy vote cast by Brendan O’Hara)

Jonathan Edwards Independent

Margaret Ferrier Independent

Stephen Flynn, Scottish National Party

Patricia Gibson, Scottish National Party

Patrick Grady, Scottish National Party

Sarah Green Liberal Democrat

Neale Hanvey Alba

Drew Hendry, Scottish National Party

Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat

Stewart Hosie, Scottish National Party

Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat

Ben Lake Plaid Cymru

Chris Law, Scottish National Party

David Linden, Scottish National Party

Caroline Lucas Green

Angus MacNeil, Scottish National Party

Stewart McDonald, Scottish National Party

Stuart McDonald, Scottish National Party

Anne McLaughlin, Scottish National Party (proxy vote cast by Brendan O’Hara)

John McNally, Scottish National Party

Carol Monaghan, Scottish National Party

Layla Moran Liberal Democrat

Helen Morgan Liberal Democrat

Gavin Newlands, Scottish National Party

John Nicolson, Scottish National Party (proxy vote cast by Brendan O’Hara)

Brendan O’Hara, Scottish National Party

Sarah Olney Liberal Democrat

Kirsten Oswald, Scottish National Party

Liz Saville-Roberts Plaid Cymru

Tommy Sheppard, Scottish National Party

Alyn Smith, Scottish National Party

Chris Stephens, Scottish National Party

Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

Alison Thewliss, Scottish National Party

Owen Thompson, Scottish National Party

Claudia Webbe Independent

Philippa Whitford, Scottish National Party

Pete Wishart, Scottish National Party

Tellers: Marion Fellows,, Scottish National Party; Peter Grant,, Scottish National Party

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