Republicans welcome support as police criticised over royal wedding arrests

By staff writers
April 29, 2011

British republicans have welcomed a high turnout on 29 April 2011 at 'not the royal wedding' events in various parts of Britain. Meanwhile, there are concerns about the number of people arrested, with apparently little evidence, in apparent attempts to prevent anti-monarchy protests at today's royal wedding.

Hundreds of people attended a 'not the royal wedding' party in central London organised by Republic, a group campaigning for a democratic constitution. Many activists said that the turnout was more than they expected. Republic totally sold out of campaign badges, which bore slogans such as "a citizen, not a subject" and "I want a vote, not a wedding".

Other republican street parties took place elsewhere in the UK, including Manchester and Cardiff. A large number of more informal republican social gatherings are also believed to be taking place.

Participants at the party in London were invited to sign a giant card wishing Kate Middleton and William Windsor a happy marriage but politely asserting that they did not have the right to unelected positions of privilege. Republic also invited people to write messages on cards that will be sealed in a box and opened on the day that Britain becomes a republic.

"Hereditary power is wrong," insisted republican activist Rosie Smith, "They do still have power - symbolic and real". She said the current monarch does not tend to use her power, but pointed out that "Charles is politically active", which will be a major problem if he becomes king.

She told Ekklesia that the street party in London had gone "very well", adding "there really is a groundswell of opinion".

Sophie Wilk, 18, said that the portrayal of the wedding has given harmful messages around gender. "As girls growing up, we thought the best thing we could aspire to is to marry someone famous," she explained, "We want to see T-shirts saying 'Little President', not 'Little Princess'".

Simon Popay, a New Zealander living in the UK, added that a monarchy in the twenty-first century "seems really nonsensical".

Meanwhile, the very heavy media coverage of the royal wedding has left little space for news on arrests made over the last few days.

It has been reported that police were arresting people who they thought might try to disrupt the wedding. But friends of many of those arrested insist that they are peaceful activists, some of whom were not planning to protest at the wedding at all, let alone to break the law.

While the details remain unclear, pre-emptive arrests of activists have been reported as far apart as Edinburgh and Cambridge. At least fourteen people were arrested in Camberwell, south London, yesterday, after police raided a grassroots community centre used by activists and people with alternative lifestyles.

The police reported forty-five arrests in the vicinity of the royal wedding this morning, including at least ten people with anti-monarchy banners. It is not yet clear what grounds were given for their arrests.

Over forty Facebook pages are reported to have gone offline since yesterday, and it is thought likely that at least some of these are due to police intervention. They include pages belonging to campaigning groups such as York Anarchists, Ecosocialists Unite and Tower Hamlets Greens.


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