The UK government has recently fast-tracked new legislation aimed at cracking down on protests ahead of King Charles’s coronation. The security minister, Tom Tugendhat, has defended the new laws, which include a 12-month prison sentence for protesters who block roads and a six-month prison sentence or unlimited fine for anyone who locks onto others, objects, or buildings. Police will also be able to stop and search protesters they suspect are planning to cause “disruption.”
In official warning letters sent to anti-monarchists planning to stage peaceful protests at the coronation, the cabinet minister insisted that people would still have the “liberty to protest.” He stated that “the coronation is a chance for the United Kingdom to showcase our liberty and democracy” and that the security arrangement was empowering people to come together, freely and openly. The security minister said that anti-monarchists would still “have the liberty to protest, but they would not have the liberty to disrupt others. That’s where we’re drawing a difference.”
When asked if police had had enough time to process and digest the new laws, Tugendhat said: “We passed the laws to give police powers they’ve asked for months. This is not to do with the coronation, but we’ve seen the nature of protest become so much more disruptive and intrusive. We can’t deliver on the five pledges if we can’t get the economy going.”
The security operation for the coronation, called Operation Golden Orb, will involve thousands of officers from across the UK. Hundreds of officers will line the route towards Westminster Abbey, and plain-clothed police will be in the crowds, while snipers will be situated on rooftops. Planning for the coronation has been a very complex police and intelligence operation, with officials considering the security of heads of state and dealing with protest groups who have nothing to do with the UK but are related to foreign leaders visiting the UK.
Regarding an incident where a man threw “shotgun cartridges” into Buckingham Palace grounds, Tugendhat said he was “very proud” of how the police responded, “very appropriately and quickly.” The man was arrested and detained on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon after a knife was found, but he was not carrying a gun. Police do not believe it was a terrorist incident, and the mental health history of the suspect is being examined.
The security minister refused to be drawn on how much the security operation around the coronation would cost, following reports that it would cost the taxpayer around £100m. “It’s not a figure I recognize,” he said. “It’s very difficult to pull that out as a separate figure because we have an enormous amount of effort going in for a major incident like this in different parts of the country.”