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Sadiq Khan Defends Right To Free Speech But Says Some Royal Protest Has Been “Disrespectful”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has defended the right to free speech but told protesters against the monarchy they are being 'disrespectful' (Alamy)

2 min read

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has defended people's right to free speech following Royal protests in response to the Queen's death, but suggested that some Republican protesters have not helped their cause.

Khan said free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy and the police should not be heavy-handed with demonstrators. But while he did not question whether any of the protests that have taken place at events to commemorate the Queen's death were lawful, he wondered if perhaps some had been “disrespectful” to those gathered to mourn her. 

The police have faced criticism over their "heavy-handed" response to demonstrations against the Royal Family following news of Elizabeth II’s death.

Civil rights groups have expressed concern after a number of incidents in recent days, including footage showing an individual holding a sign reading "Not my King" being forcibly removed from outside Parliament by police.

Senior Tory MP David Davis has also called on the police to "continue to respect the right to free speech”.

The Queen's Lying-in-State at Westminster Hall will continue until Monday morning, before her state funeral at nearby Westminster Abbey, and further demonstrations are expected.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday Khan, a former lawyer, was asked if he would be personally encouraging police to respect the legal rights of peaceful protesters.

"The right to protest and the right to free speech are the cornerstones of our democracy,” the London Mayor said.

“It's not a criminal offence to be disrespectful, or to campaign in bad taste, the police understand that.”

But the senior Labour politician added: "What I'd say though, to those thinking about protesting, is you're not enhancing the cause of Republicanism by protesting the way that some are thinking about doing.

“What I've seen in the last few days, speaking to and listening to not just Londoners, but those from across the country coming to London to pay their respects to her majesty, is an outpouring of grief, sorrow and affection.

"So yes, it is lawful, but I think it's disrespectful.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has encouraged people who wish to protest against the monarchy to do so “in the spirit of respect”.

“Respect the fact that hundreds of thousands of people do want to come forward and have that moment," he told BBC Breakfast.

"Don’t ruin it for them.”

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