Women's safety volunteers arrested during coronation for carrying rape alarms
A number of women’s safety volunteers were arrested for carrying rape alarms on the day of the coronation, it has been reported.
The Metropolitan Police said that at around 2am on Saturday three people were stopped by officers and arrested in Soho, central London, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit public nuisance.
Among the items seized by officers were a number of rape alarms, the force said.
It comes after the Met received heavy criticism over the 52 arrests that were made against anti-monarchy supporters on the day of the coronation.
A number of protestors were handcuffed as hundreds of people gathered in Trafalgar Square yesterday.
Among those held was the head of the group Republic, which wants to scrap the monarchy and elect a head of state.
Graham Smith, who was released on Saturday evening after 16 hours in custody, said there was ‘no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK’.
Scotland Yard said it had acted ‘in a proportionate manner’.
Commander Karen Findlay defended her officers’ response to protests during the day of the Coronation, saying they had a duty to intervene ‘when protest becomes criminal and may cause serious disruption’.
The Met said it ‘received intelligence that indicated groups and individuals seeking to disrupt today’s coronation proceedings were planning to use rape alarms to disrupt the procession’.
The three people – a 37-year-old woman, a 59-year-old woman and a 47-year-old man – were taken to a south London police station, where they were questioned.
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The 47-year-old man was also further arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods, police said.
All three have since been released on bail pending further inquiries.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said: ‘The intelligence we received led us to be extremely worried about the potential risk to public safety.
‘We are aware of and understand there is public concern over these arrests. However, the matter is still under investigation.’
Councillor Aicha Less, cabinet member for communities and public protection at Westminster City Council, said: ‘We are deeply concerned by reports of our Night Stars volunteers being arrested overnight.
‘This service has been a familiar and welcome sight in the West End for a long time and have extensive training so they can assist the most vulnerable on the streets late at night.
‘We are working with the Metropolitan Police to establish exactly what happened, and in the meantime, we are in touch with our volunteers to ensure they are receiving the support they need.’
Several Labour MPs criticised the Met’s response, with senior backbencher Sir Chris Bryant writing on Twitter that ‘freedom of speech is the silver thread that runs through a parliamentary constitutional monarchy’.
Shadow minister Jess Philips also used social media to say that ‘our nation and our King is not so fragile as to not be able to take harmless protest of a different view’.
Labour MP Richard Burgon said he was ‘deeply concerned’ by the arrests, while MP Zarah Sultana said: ‘Whatever you think of the monarchy, the right to peaceful protest is fundamental to democracy.’
Among those critical of the Met was the UK director of Human Rights Watch, Yasmine Ahmed, who likened its actions to ‘something you would expect to see in Moscow, not London’.
Night Stars is a part of the council’s night safety campaign.
According to the council’s website, Night Star volunteers are ‘focused on working with the West End’s evening and night-time economy businesses to promote women’s safety and reduce violence against women and girls’.
It adds: ‘The team will provide wider support to anyone who becomes vulnerable due to intoxication to reduce the risk to their safety or prevent them from becoming victims of crime.
‘The Night Safety volunteers aim to make London’s nightlife safer for everyone.
‘They provide a welcoming place for all and collaborate to ensure that Westminster’s nightlife remains a safe, inclusive and enjoyable experience for residents and visitors alike.’
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