The police response to the coronation crowds should trouble us all

I wasn’t out on the streets on Coronation Day with a Not My King placard. However, the arrests of greater than 50 anti-royalist campaigners for peacefully exercising their proper to take action, ought to make us all stand as much as say Not My Democracy. No matter our private views on monarchy, the hard-line police response to sanitise the Coronation crowds, ought to hassle us all. 

Our authorities is starting to dismantle the freedoms that underpin our democratic society, basic freedoms that earlier generations fought to guard. Laws on public order was rushed via simply days earlier than the Coronation, and, with little time for scrutiny, has solid its internet broad, catching, as we noticed on the weekend, peaceable protesters who have been disrupting nothing besides the optics of a high-profile occasion. In a democracy, the onus is on the police to guard and allow individuals to train their proper to peaceable protest, to not make judgement calls about what constitutes an inconvenience to society. A proper isn’t a proper if the police can resolve when you could have it.

How peaceable protest is policed is a key indicator of attitudes in direction of civil society – residents, charities, group and marketing campaign teams – a litmus take a look at of a authorities’s willingness to have interaction with those that problem it and those that query the established order. Civil society is the canary within the democratic coalmine and we have to take discover of its early warning, misery indicators.

Even for well-established humanitarian organisations like Oxfam it’s changing into more and more troublesome to talk out. In 2014, after we sought to attract consideration to the rising use of meals banks and the poverty suffered by individuals within the UK, we drew scathing criticism from the likes of former Residence Secretary, Priti Patel. On the time, the Charity Fee was vital that we hadn’t achieved sufficient to keep away from a notion of political bias. It’s nice that the brand new Chair of the Charity Fee has publicly championed the position of campaigning by charities, however the prevailing narrative that charities needs to be there to do good – to assist, however to not problem – has grown ever stronger. 


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After all, lots of the drivers of this worrying pattern come from past the UK: the anti-terror laws that proliferated after 9/11, the rise in populism, and, most just lately, some parts of the top-down, centralised response to the coronavirus pandemic that positioned the best restrictions on our civil liberties seen in a era. These measures helped to manage COVID and undoubtedly have been crucial to save lots of numerous lives, however questions stay as as to if additionally they emboldened politicians to encroach additional, worsening a secondary an infection that’s threatening to overwhelm our weakened democracy.

Folks – campaigners, activists, charities – are terribly highly effective drivers of social change. If we would like our governments to sort out local weather change with the urgency and scale of ambition required, we want individuals to demand it. If we would like an financial system that not privileges the eye-watering wealth of the elite on the expense of the bulk, we want individuals to demand it. If we would like a authorities that’s held to account, and corruption saved in examine, we want individuals to demand it. 

A free citizenry is a load-bearing pillar of democracy; the erosion of its foundations threatens to carry down the temple.

A spokesperson for the Met described the Coronation as a ‘a as soon as in a era second’. If solely they’d been in a position to make use of it to showcase our nation’s dedication to a free society – one primarily based on shared, basic rights – as a substitute of as a justification for a heavy-handed, clumsy crackdown.

King Charles himself is understood for his outspoken views on points starting from the setting to structure. It could be ironic if his Coronation involves be remembered as a day on which free speech was stifled. We’re sleepwalking in direction of a disaster of democracy; I solely hope the sight of placards being loaded into police vans, wakes us all up.