Head of anti-monarchy group arrested for peaceful protest at King Charles’ coronation

Republic CEO Graham Smith wears a yellow top with the words 'Not my king' on it in protest of King Charles coronation and the monarchy

The head of the anti-monarchy group Republic has been arrested alongside others in a peaceful protest of King Charles III’s coronation. 

Footage on Twitter showed Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, sitting on the ground surrounded by a group of police officers on Saturday (6 May) near Trafalgar Square. 

Five other demonstrators were arrested by Metropolitan Police while unloading hundreds of yellow placards reading “not my King” near the coronation procession route. 

“So much for the right to peaceful protest,” Republic tweeted, adding that the Met Police hadn’t told them why the demonstrators were arrested. 

The Met Police jarringly tweeted earlier this week that they would have “low tolerance” for those participating in protests during King Charles’ coronation. The law enforcement body said it would “deal robustly” with anyone seeking to “undermine” the day. 

On Saturday, the Met Police confirmed via Twitter that several arrests had been made near the coronation parade route. 

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This included several people “detained on suspicion of breaching the peace” on Carlton House Terrace, four held on “suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance” in the area of St Martin’s Lane, and three more detained for “suspicion of possessing articles to cause criminal damage” near Wellington Arch. 

LGBTQ+ rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who was part of the Republic protests, slammed the arrests which he described as amounting to the suppression of the “right to freely protest”.

“Police arrest peaceful anti-monarchy protesters and have erected giant barriers to obscure pro-republic banners,” Tatchell tweeted. “Right to freely protest suppressed. Shame!”

Harry Stratton, a director at Republic, arrived as Smith and others were detained by police, according to the Guardian. Stratton said protesters were “collecting the placards and bringing them over when the police stopped them”.

“The guys asked why and they were told: ‘We will tell you that once we have searched the vehicle’,” Stratton said. “That’s when they arrested the six organisers.”

Stratton said the arrests were a “surprise” as the group had a “number of meetings with the police”, and the Met “had been making all the right noises”. 

Republic said “hundreds of placards were seized” by police, questioning: “Is this democracy?”

“Some ask why we’re protesting,” the group wrote on Twitter. “It’s because we want to use the coronation to change the debate about the monarchy and show that we’re not a nation of royalists.” 

A person holds up a sign in protest of the monarchy on the morning of King Charles III's coronation in the UK
Supporters of anti-monarchy group Republic protest against the coronation of King Charles III on the edge of Trafalgar Square on 6 Mary 2023. (Getty)

Graham Smith previously told PinkNews that he believes the royals don’t care about LGBTQ+ people, given the monarchy’s track record on queer rights. 

“The monarchy is steeped in very deeply conservative attitudes,” he said.

“The monarch is the head of the Church of England, and just a few months ago the Archbishop of Canterbury said gay sex is still a sin, which is an appalling thing to say. That then emboldens people to support things like conversion therapy.

“It’s a pretty toxic institution in my view … I think we are stuck with a deeply conservative head of state and family in a country which is increasingly open-minded and liberal.”

Smith said the royal family has a “lot of questions to answer to as to why they’ve taken no interest” in LGBTQ+ issues when it can be “pretty life and death in so many parts of the Commonwealth”. 

Many countries still have anti-LGBTQ+ laws, which criminalise queer folks, that they inherited from the English while under British colonial rule