Royal Wedding: your protest rights
Posted by Ian Browne on 17 May 2018
For many, Saturday’s Royal Wedding will be a chance to celebrate the happy couple – but others will want to use the opportunity to voice their opposition to the continued existence of the monarchy.
Whatever side of the debate you fall on, we should all agree that it’s important to be able to celebrate or protest peacefully and lawfully.
The last Royal Wedding between William and Kate in 2011 saw the police use oppressive tactics to crack down on protesters – even arresting people they knew had no intention of committing any crime.
Harry and Meghan’s wedding is being held in St George’s Chapel by Windsor Castle. Liberty has been consulting with Thames Valley Police to urge them to take a less authoritarian approach.
Here are your rights if you’re planning a protest this weekend:
Your right to protest is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights under Article 10, freedom of expression, and Article 11, freedom of assembly and association.
This means that, because of the Human Rights Act, public authorities like police forces and local authorities have to act in a way that doesn’t breach your rights to free expression and association and must take certain steps to facilitate peaceful protest.
What you need to know
Notifying the police
You don’t have to give notice to the police of a stationary demonstration on public ground, such as protesting outside Windsor Castle. Marches usually require that you let the police know six clear days in advance.
Even if you are not required to tell the police you’re planning to protest, it can still be a good idea to inform the force involved so they can make arrangements to police it safely.
Restricting and banning protests
The police can only usually place conditions on public demonstrations or marches that they reasonably believe may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community.
Protests can only usually be banned if – even with conditions – they still pose such a risk. Particular rules apply for demonstrations in Parliament Square.
Kettling is the name for a police tactic in which large numbers of people are held in place by cordons of police and not allowed to leave.
At the last royal wedding, police kettled people simply because they were protesters. The police can only do this if they believe there’s no other way to avoid an imminent breach of the peace.
If this happens to you, it’s a good idea to ask the police why you aren’t able to leave – and keep a record of the situation and anything they say.
If you are going to the royal wedding, it’s a good idea to take a bottle of water, sunscreen and any medication you might need – especially if you are worried that you might be kettled.
The law around protest can be complicated and can sometimes involve the risk of criminal charges – so if you’d like more help and advice, please get in touch with our Advice and Information team.
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