Labour leader Keir Starmer has urged anti-monarchy protesters not to disrupt mourners from expressing their thanks to Queen Elizabeth II in the run-up to her funeral slated for next week.
While defending the “British tradition” of the right to protest and disagree, he said it should be exercised “in the spirit of respect”.
His comment follows the arrests or removal of protesters from royal events after the death of the UK’s longest reigning Queen who enjoyed wide popularity. While her passing sparked a massive outpouring of grief, a few isolated anti-monarchy voices made headlines with free-speech campaigners expressing concern over the way the police treated them.
“Respect the fact that hundreds of thousands of people do want to come forward and have that moment (to express thanks to the late Queen),” Starmer told the BBC Breakfast programme, calling on protesters not to “ruin it for them”.
“I think if people have spent a long time waiting to come forward to have that moment as the coffin goes past or whatever it may be, I think respect that,” the Labour leader said as he revealed his own plan to be part of the reception gathering when the Queen’s coffin would arrive in Westminster Hall.
He said he would come back to the venue with his family to pay his respects privately.
The response to the Queen’s passing “has been very moving across the whole country”, Starmer said adding, “it’s been quite an incredible moment where so many people have come together.”
However, the anti-monarchy pressure group Republic said it expected protests before the coronation of the new King – Charles III – and asked the police to allow them to go ahead peacefully.
The group which is running a campaign seeking to replace the monarchy with an elected head of state wrote to police forces condemning the arrests of protesters earlier this week.
Police on Monday escorted away a woman holding up a sign reading “Not My King” at parliament in London, sparking criticism over the treatment of protesters.
However, anti-monarchists have remained a minority in the UK with a poll in June this year showing that 62 per cent of people wanted the system to continue.