A fan of the British royals waves Union flags featuring the faces of Prince William and Kate Middleton near Buckingham Palace on Friday, the day that the couple married at Westminster Abbey in London.
While America’s press corps has kept itself busy fawning over the glitz and glamour of the royal wedding, a darker and more interesting side to the story has gone largely ignored. Across the Atlantic, the merry royal celebration has been happening against a backdrop of protests and deep social unrest being caused by massive cuts in social spending. But because this depressing reality does not jibe with the splendor of a proper royal wedding, British authorities have been attempting—largely successfully—to quash public dissent. Apparently, they even got help from Facebook, which deactivated pages being used to mobilize protesters. —YL
The action against the 10 or so people participating in the Right Royal Orgy in Soho Square was one of several pre-emptive strikes by Scotland Yard. Police said they made a total of 52 arrests including 13 at Charing Cross station, where people were found to have climbing equipment and anti-monarchy placards, in addition to 21 arrests during raids of five squats in London on Thursday morning.
On the night before the wedding four individuals were arrested, three in London and one in Cambridgeshire, for conspiracy to cause a public nuisance and breach of the peace. One of those arrested, Chris Knight, was planning to behead an effigy of Prince Andrew using a theatrical guillotine, in what his friends said was a piece of street theatre.
By the time the marriage vows had been made, the police had imposed a section 60 blanket stop-and-search order around the whole royal wedding zone, after a few individuals were seen putting scarves over their faces in Soho Square.
The move allowed officers to search people without discretion. It can be issued when police believe, with good reason, that there is the possibility of serious violence or that a person is carrying an offensive weapon. It was imposed along with a section 60a order, which allows officers to remove headgear and masks from demonstrators.
The powers remained in place for several hours, although the police said the mood in both Soho Square and at the Republican Tea Party was calm.
In another incident, officers swooped on a group of five people, three of whom were wearing zombie make-up, when they entered a branch of Starbucks on Oxford Street. They were arrested “on suspicion of planning a breach of the peace”.
They were all handcuffed and held in a police van and gave their names as Amy Cutler, 25, Rachel Young, 27, Eric Schultz, 43, Hannah Eisenman-Renyard, and Deborah, 19, an anthropology student at the University of East London.
“We’ve been pre-emptively arrested under suspicion of planning a breach of the peace,” Cutler told the Guardian from the police van, before. “We went to Starbucks to get a coffee and the police followed us in.”