The eldest son of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles ascended to the British throne this week, and the hashtag “NotMyKing” was trending on Twitter. The demonstration was not only present on social media. There have been increasing calls for abolishing the monarchy as tens of thousands of people around the United Kingdom mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, who ruled the country for the longest period.
During some of the commemorative activities taking place across the nation to mark the Queen’s passing, it has frequently been observed that individuals are waving anti-monarchist signs, yelling slogans, and jeering at the royal family.
But when police began collecting up and arresting some of these activists, lawyers and free speech supporters raised the alarm.
In recent days, Police started to detain monarchy-opposing demonstrators. The first incident surfaced on Sunday after Oxford resident Symon Hill was detained for yelling “who elected him?” while a legal document announcing Charles as king was being read aloud. Later, Hill detailed his encounter in a blog post, where he claimed to have been handcuffed and not informed of the reason for his detention.
I was arrested today in #Oxford after I voiced my opposition to the proclamation of "#CharlesIII". Can we be arrested simply for expressing an opinion in public? I was arrested under the Police Bill passed earlier this year. This is an outrageous assault on democracy.#NotMyKing
— Symon Hill (@SymonHill) September 11, 2022
Hill said in his blog post that some fellow Britons who attended the gathering to mourn the death of the Queen exerted censorship pressure on him as well. It seems that two or three individuals in the crowd told him to “shut up” when he publicly questioned the monarchy.
Just went to Parliament Square & held up a blank piece of paper. Officer came & asked for my details. He confirmed that if I wrote “Not My King” on it, he would arrest me under the Public Order Act because someone might be offended.
— Paul Powlesland (@paulpowlesland) September 12, 2022
A similar incident happened in Edinburgh, where numerous spectators aggressively shoved a 22-year-old to the ground for reportedly heckling Prince Andrew before dragging him away by the police.
A woman in Edinburgh was detained for waving a sign that stated, “F*** imperialism, remove the monarchy,” while simultaneously.
The Metropolitan Police’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said in a statement earlier this week that “we have been making [the public’s right to protest] clear to all officers involved in the extraordinary policing operation and we will continue to do so,” as per the Washington Post.
According to Oxford protester Hill, police originally said he had been detained following the UK’s stricter protest rules, which were changed in response to the recent Extinction Rebellion and demonstration in the nation about “Black lives matter”.
According to the new rule, police officers are permitted to take action when they observe “unreasonably loud protests that may have a significant impact on others.” The impact is described in a government information sheet as intimidation, harassment, anxiety, or distress, according to Sky News.
The Republic and other organisations that have long advocated for the end of the monarchy have stepped up their calls for reform in the nation. The organisation has compared the UK’s repression of protesters to the acts of authoritarian regimes all over the world.
This is a time of national mourning for the vast majority of the country, but the fundamental right to protest remains the cornerstone of our democracy, a spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Liz Truss said in response to questions about the demonstrations and criticism of the police, according to ABC News.
Unrelatedly, a video of Truss as a young adult labelling the monarchy “disgraceful” spread widely on social media. Truss is heard stating in the video, “I’m not personally against any of them – I’m against the premise that people can be born to rule.
The opposition to the monarchy in the UK predates Queen Elizabeth II’s passing by a significant amount. The Republic movement, the primary lobbying organisation for UK Republicans attempting to overthrow the government and establish a republic with an elected head of state, is the driving force behind the ongoing fight to abolish the monarchy. The group held the monarchy to be an outmoded structure that had no place in contemporary society.
The British tradition of opposing the monarchy extends back to the 18th century when radical British Thomas Paine called for a full reform of the British court after being inspired by the French Revolution. According to historyextra.com, he demanded the establishment of a written constitution, the abolition of the Church of England, and changes to aristocratic property ownership. However, at the time, not many people agreed with his thoughts.
However, under Queen Victoria’s administration, anti-monarchy views flourished. After Prince Consort Albert Edward passed away in 1861, she retreated from public life, which led to considerable condemnation of their son. The future king Edward was well known for his amorous liaisons and infidelity, as well as his propensity for gambling.
In the year 1871, the government brought up the price of the royal family for the very first time in front of the people when liberal politician Sir Charles Dilke delivered his “cost of the crown speech,” estimating that the taxpayers must pay about £1 million a year
In contrast, calls to abolish the monarchy have grown louder in nations outside of the UK that are governed by its commonwealth. An increasing number of nations, including Jamaica, New Zealand, and Canada, have expressed opposition to royal authority.