Coronation 2023, Met Police: Operation Golden Orb to combat anyone ‘undermining this celebration’

Around 30,000 police officers will be deployed this week during the Met Police’s Operation Golden Orb.

“Our tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low. We will deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining this celebration.”

Those are the words of the Met Police as it prepares for a massive operation for the Coronation this week.

While there is no doubt a vital security role to play - an unenviable task - the attitude towards protest can be read as sinister.

New laws giving police extra powers were signed off by King Charles on Tuesday. They include possible 12-month prison terms for protesters blocking roads, airports and railways; six-month terms for anyone locking themselves to buildings; and additional powers to stop and search protesters suspected of planning disruption.

The government denies the timing of the rushed-through law was down to the Coronation and security minister Tom Tugendhat told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The coronation is a chance for the United Kingdom to showcase our liberty and democracy, that’s what this security arrangement is doing. Empowering people to come together, freely, openly and demonstrating security can be a liberator, not like in authoritarian states, where it is a controller.”

He said anti-monarchists would still “have the liberty to protest but they would not have the liberty to disrupt others”.

And the troubled Met is apparently fully behind this curbing of freedom of protest: “Our tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low. We will deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining this celebration.”

Operation Golden Orb (for goodness sake) will be one of the largest ever in London, with more than 29,000 police officers out over the next week. For the sake of public safety it is of course important. For the sake of cracking down on people walking slowly to highlight government failures in addressing climate change, not so much. And for the sake of cracking down on people questioning why we should “pledge allegiance” to someone because of his bloodline (and indeed to his grandson), it’s nonsense.

The force has said in a statement it will be using facial facial recognition technology in central London: “The watch list will be focused on those whose attendance on Coronation Day would raise public protection concerns, including those wanted for offences or have an outstanding warrant for arrest issued by the courts, or those under relevant offender management programmes in order to keep the public safe.”

Can we really be assured this is what it will be used for?

The force adds: “Outside central London for those enjoying the 1,800 registered events taking place, local officers alongside cadets and volunteers will be in their local communities looking after those attending street parties, and engaging with local residents. While we are focused on the celebratory events, we have a comprehensive plan for dealing with day-to-day incidents across the capital to ensure we continue to provide a response to those who need it.”

The Met Police certainly has a vital role to do protecting public safety but it needs to think very carefully about how it approaches the right to protest.

The symbolism of a threat of dealing “robustly” with protest on a day when we are told we should pledge allegiance to the king is clear. Or by saying that am I “undermining this celebration”?