The British Monarchy
Metropolitan Police Declare Day of Joy
“To my family it was like I had been disappeared” said Charlie Veitch. But this was not China. It was Cambridge, England. And the threat was not to the rule of the Chinese Communist Party but to a public relations stunt by the Windsor clan. On the eve of the Windsor/Middleton wedding spectacle, according to the Guardian newspaper, stunt film maker Veitch was arrested by Cambridge police.
He had notified the Metropolitan police that he would be protesting against monarchy in London the next day. For that he was held for 16 hours in “a box-like cell” in Cambridge before being taken by the Metropolitan Police to Edmonton police station in London. No friend or family member was told of his detention.
Mr. Veitch was arrested on a charge of “conspiracy to cause a public nuisance”. In a democracy it is the job of the police to protect the exercise of free speech. But in the kingdom free speech is considered a public nuisance.
Veitch was not the only one to be arrested on this charge in a determined effort to prevent free speech by republicans. Chris Knight intended to take part in the beheading of an effigy of Andrew Windsor as an act of street theatre. But the night before he was detained by police near his home in south London, together with his partner and a friend. Others who tried to continue with the street theatre were picked up at the scene by plain clothes police.
“Precrime” Not a Fantasy in Feudal Fairyland
According to the Guardian close to 24 people were arrested the day before the spectacle and 55 more were arrested on the Friday of the wedding, not all “in relation to republican activity“. The newspaper reported that republicans had been held for up to 24 hours. Mr. Veitch described his experience at the hands of British police as arrest for a “pre-crime, as in the Minority Report movie.
“Democracy not Monarchy” Cause for Arrest
Adam Moniz, who is not a member of any political group and who had never been arrested before, was held by the police for 6 hours. He was on his way to a street party organised by the Republic group with a rolled-up “Democracy not Monarchy” banner. Apparently advocating democracy is still considered subversive in the United Kingdom.
Supreme Court Takes "Pragmatic Approach" to Free SpeechAnd the Supreme Court agreed in 2017 that the police could put citizens in preventative detention for as long as 5½ hours in order to prevent the exercise of free speech if that free speech might anger someone of a different opinion.
The police, the judges said, need not bring charges nor produce any evidence of wrong-doing.
Early in its judgement the supreme court justices set the tone by referring to incidents of "violent disruption" and a threat of "international terrorism" that "was assessed as severe". However, no evidence had been produced that those arrested intended violence or that their protests would have helped "international terrorism".
The judgement claimed that Metropolitan Police plans for the monarchist day of celebration called for "balancing the needs and rights of protestors with those impacted by the protest". But it failed to explain how the arrest of citizens before they had protested could be consistent with a right of free speech.
Indeed it is notable that nowhere did the judgement refer to the right of free speech.
The police claimed that the arrests were made to "prevent an imminent breach of the peace". And the supreme court judgement noted that "the essence of a breach of the peace is violence".
But no evidence had been presented that those arrested planned violence. It can only be, therefore, that the police feared monarchist violence in response to the expression of republican beliefs. But in that case it should have been the monarchists who were arrested, if we are to have free speech in this country.
The lordly justices quote approvingly an appeal court finding that "there is room, even in the case of fundamental rights as to whose application no restriction or limitation is permitted . . for a pragmatic approach". And such a pragmatic approach, it seems, allows for deprivation of liberty if the police think it necessary to protect public order, without evidence, charge or trial.
The supreme court was considering only whether the right to liberty under article 5 of the European Convention on Human had been violated. And in particular the right to be brought before a judge or magistrate following arrest. None of the protestors were taken to court.
The court found in effect that the police may arrest a citizen for a limited period although they have no intention of bringing that person before a court to state their case. The court of appeal that had previously considered the case had found that the police had in fact arrested the protestors for the purpose of bringing them before a court but had not done so. But that was alright because they would have done so if they had wanted to keep the protestors locked up for longer!
Unfortunately for the monarchists and their apologists, whatever the justices have ruled, the cat had been let out of the bag by the Metropolitan Police before the wedding day, revealing the pro-monarchy bias of the police. They had announced that free speech would be denied to republicans.
Police Enforce "Joy"
In a blatant expression of political partiality Metropolitan Police Commander Christine Jones declared to the news media "Let us make it absolutely clear - this is a day of celebration, joy and pageantry. It is a fantastic day for Britain. Any criminals attempting to disrupt it", she went on, "be that in the guise of protest or otherwise, will be met by a robust, decisive, flexible and proportionate policing response".
Apparently no other feelings were allowable as far as the police were concerned. And on the wedding day the police enforced that with the preventative arrests.
In short, if there is a chance that republican protest might upset monarchists the republican can be arrested in order to keep the monarchists happy. All that is necessary, in the words of the supreme court, is that this is believed by the police to be "reasonably necessary for the purpose of preventing imminent violence". A blank cheque for monarchist police.
The judges confirmed that protection of feudal privilege still takes precedence over human rights. And the police are free to put the "joy" of monarchists before the free speech of republicans.
It seems that the police decided that the only way to enforce joy on some unwilling citizens was to lock them in a cell.
The police tactics fit into a systematic pattern of discrimination against republicans.