The Metropolitan Police said on Monday night that it “regrets” arresting six anti-monarchy protesters at Saturday’s coronation, hours after Rishi Sunak backed the force’s handling of the event.
The Met made 64 arrests on Saturday and had been criticised by some opposition politicians for allegedly cracking down on legitimate protest and stifling free speech.
At 9pm on Monday night the force issued a statement saying it regretted the arrests of six people, including the chief executive of Republic, the anti-monarchy group, under new public order laws.
The Met also confirmed that one member of the group had been working with the force’s “protest liaison” unit before the coronation, to ensure that the protest could go ahead.
Sunak had earlier backed the security operation, saying the police were operationally independent of government and “make these decisions based on what they think is best”.
“I’m grateful to the police and everyone who played a part in ensuring that this weekend has gone so well, so successfully and so safely,” he said.
The Met said its officers had been briefed to be “extremely vigilant and proactive” in response to security assessments that the coronation might be seriously disrupted.
Among six people arrested at 6.40am on Saturday was Republic chief executive Graham Smith, who said he would take legal action against police after no charges were brought against him.
Smith said a chief inspector and two other officers visited his Reading home on Monday evening to issue the apology. He told PA news agency: “They seemed rather embarrassed, to be honest.
“I said, for the record, I won’t accept the apology. We have a lot of questions to answer and we will be taking action.”
The Met said a review of the case found no proof that the six protesters were planning to “lock on” — a protesting tactic when people glue or lock themselves to objects. It is now banned.
The Met said in a statement: “Those arrested stated the items would be used to secure their placards, and the investigation has been unable to prove intent to use them to lock on and disrupt the event.
“This evening all six have had their bail cancelled and no further action will be taken. We regret that those six people arrested were unable to join the wider group of protesters in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere on the procession route.”
The Met said that at least one of the group had been engaging with the force’s Protest Liaison Team before the event. “The Protest Liaison Team were not the arresting officers nor were they present in St Martin’s Lane at the time of the arrest,” it added.
The issue is likely to be taken up by MPs when the House of Commons returns on Tuesday after a short “coronation recess”.