York MP Rachael Maskell has spoken of her deep concern at news that people are being arrested or threatened with arrest for criticising the royal family.
A man aged 22 was arrested and charged with breach of the peace for heckling the Duke of York yesterday (Monday).
In footage widely circulated on social media, a man was seen shouting at Prince Andrew as he walked behind the Queen’s coffin in Edinburgh. Bystanders then pulled him to the ground.
Scottish police have also charged a woman, 22, with the same offence after arresting her during a proclamation for the king in the city.
In Oxford, Symon Hill was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence after shouting “who elected him?” when he came across a public formal reading of the proclamation of the accession for the King in Carfax, Oxford. He was later de-arrested.
Meanwhile, a protester bearing a handmade sign saying “not my King” was spoken to by police and escorted away from the Palace of Westminster.
Today York Central MP Ms Maskell told YorkMix: “From what I’ve witnessed, and of course I only know what I’ve seen, the ability now to have a difference of opinion is being taken away.
“We think back through a women’s right to vote, or cancelling debt in developing countries, the advancement of trade union rights, even fighting for our planet – progress in Westminster has always been dependent on civil society rising up, challenging and having its say, and pushing government to go further.
“It seems under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which was enacted earlier this year, that freedom of expression, that freedom to have your own voice and your own opinions, is being crushed.
“And if you do speak out, you can end up being arrested. The bill criminalises people, as opposed to it being a civil offence.
“So this has really moved people having an independence of view into the criminal justice system. This just isn’t right. And it isn’t British.”
The Labour MP said if her party won power it would repeal anti-freedom legislation.
She is far from the only critic of the arrests. Nick Aldworth, the former national co-ordinator for UK counter-terrorism policing, said police have been “overzealous” in their handling of anti-monarchy protesters.
He said the late Queen would not have wanted “interference with legitimate protest” and branded the actions of some officers as “inappropriate overprotectiveness towards the dignity of the event”.
And Jodie Beck, policy and campaigns officer at Liberty, said: “Protest is not a gift from the state, it is a fundamental right. Being able to choose what, how, and when we protest is a vital part of a healthy and functioning democracy.”