Yorkshire MP raises free speech concerns over anti-monarchy protester arrests

Yorkshire MP David Davis has called for anti-monarchy protesters’ right to free speech to be protected after multiple arrests at official events in the wake of The Queen’s death.

The Conservative Haltemprice and Howden MP wrote to Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone calling for a liberal approach if those arrested were merely stating an opinion. He added in a tweet that while he was a staunch monarchist, republicans had as much right to express themselves as anyone else.

It comes as at least three protesters had been arrested in Scotland as of Tuesday morning (Sep 13) and two charged in connection with alleged anti-monarchy statements. They include a 22-year-old woman who is set to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after being arrested outside St Giles’ Cathedral during King Charles’ Proclamation Ceremony, before being released.

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Separately, a 22-year-old man was arrested and has since been charged in connection with a video appearing to show Prince Andrew being heckled during a procession on the Royal Mile. Officers also arrested a 45-year-old in Oxford in connection with ‘who elected him?’ being shouted during the reading of Charles III’s proclamation.

Haltemprice and Howden MP David DavisHaltemprice and Howden MP David Davis
Haltemprice and Howden MP David Davis

Those concerned have been arrested and charged on suspicion of breaching the peace or over alleged public order offences. The arrests have prompted a backlash from civil liberties group and the Republic campaign group, claiming their right to free expression has been violated.

The Metropolitan Police has since said people have a right to protest after protesters were threatened with arrest in London on Monday. Mr Davis wrote in his letter he did not want to interfere in the judicial process, but hoped the police would continue to respect free speech.

The MP wrote: “If the individual concerned committed acts of violence, or the police had reason to believe they would, then action was obviously necessary. But if the individual was simply stating an opinion, I trust you agree a liberal approach would be desirable.

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“I speak as a strong monarchist, but nevertheless, I hope that members of the public will remain free to share their opinions and protest in regard to issues about which they feel strongly.”

Mr Davis later tweeted: “At a time of national mourning, we should all ensure that we behave respectfully. But we must not sacrifice the principle of free speech upon which modern Britain is built.”