New tensions have arisen in the U.K. amidst a seeming police crackdown on anti-royal protestors, many of whom are waving protest signs bearing a trending hashtag: #notmyking. While flame wars have been rising in the days since the death of the late monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, and the formal declaration of the reign of her son and heir King Charles III, actual street protest is on the rise as well, with many protests fueled by the controversies surrounding the King’s brother, Prince Andrew, Duke of York.
In the days since Elizabeth’s death, U.K. police have made a series of arrests against anti-monarchy protestors. The arrests, many of which have ended up being recorded and posted to social media, have given rise to questions regarding free speech during the designated mourning period which follows the death of the monarch. A 22-year-old woman holding a sign that read “Abolish monarchy” and “F*** imperialism” was arrested by Scottish authorities on Sunday at St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, where the Queen’s body rests in state prior to its return to London. “Let her go! It’s free speech!” one man shouted while others yelled, “Have some respect,” according to The Scotsman.
Another man was arrested along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile today for yelling at Prince Andrew during the Queen’s procession. The man, identified only as Rory, stated that Andrew’s alleged past incidents of sexual abuse were the motivation for his protest. Andrew’s widely-documented friendship with American financier and convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein and the allegations of Virginia Giuffre, who claims she was trafficked by Epstein and that she was assaulted as a minor by the Prince, has been the greatest scandal to rock the royal family this century. Andrew has faced no criminal charges, and has settled a civil lawsuit filed by Giuffre out of court, but his public appearances and duties have been reduced to almost nothing in the wake of public opinion.
The United Kingdom has recently strengthened laws regarding protests in the wake of large-scale protests by advocacy groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter, which have been deemed disruptive by authorities. Many critics have viewed the new restrictions as hindering free speech. According to The Guardian, Paul Powlesland, a barrister and climate activist, held up a blank piece of paper in Parliament Square and was threatened with arrest by a police officer under the Public Order Act.
“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 posted on Twitter. “A period of quiet mourning for the Queen is fine, but using that period to cement Charles’ accession as King and cracking down on any dissent to the accession as disrespectful is outrageous.”