Protesters will be one of the key threats to King Charles III’s coronation, security experts have said.
The Metropolitan Police is mounting a carefully-planned operation said to be the largest of its type in the force’s history.
Shows of dissent are likely to include the Republic group displaying yellow T-shirts and placards along the procession route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.
A main rally expected to attract more than 1,000 people is being held by the anti-monarchists in Trafalgar Square.
Republic chief executive Graham Smith has said this will be a peaceful demonstration but other campaign groups, such as Just Stop Oil, may engage in acts of civil disobedience.
Other threats include terrorism and fixated individuals who may believe they are the rightful heir to the throne.
The Royal and Specialist Protection (RaSP) team, part of the Metropolitan Police, will be at the heart of a huge security operation.
Security expert Will Geddes said: ‘We have unprecedented experience hosting these kinds of large-scale events but this will even exceed Queen Elizabeth’s funeral because it’s going to be a massive operation with a huge roster of heads of state invited.
‘In addition to RaSP, there will be the Metropolitan Police proper who will no doubt be drafting in additional officers from across the UK, as we saw for the Queen’s funeral, as well as the emergency services, British Transport Police and the various protection teams.
‘The threats will be right across the board and include terrorism, fixated persons and protesters. There are a number of protest groups who may want to disrupt or sabotage the occasion.’
Police have made a series of arrests in central London this week as Just Stop Oil has taken what it terms ‘continued action’ over the climate crisis.
The scale of the security operation exceeds even the shield around Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, said to have been unprecedented at the time.
Coronation of King Charles III latest
The historic Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla will take place in Westminster Abbey on Saturday, May 6, 2023.
For all the latest royal updates, visit Metro.co.uk’s dedicated coronation page.
‘The Queen’s funeral obviously had a sombre tone to it and whether you are royalist or not it is in poor taste to disrupt someone’s funeral,’ Mr Geddes said. ‘In this instance there may be anti-monarchists who see an opportunity to disrupt the event to air their objections or grievances.
‘It may well be that the many members of the public in the crowds who are pro-royalists are the people that stop them.’
The ceremony will be attended by more than 2,200 guests, including 100 heads of state and royalty from the UK and overseas.
A Home Office insider told the Sunday Mirror that the security cost will be around £150 million. Armed officers will be deployed on the streets, with snipers on rooftops and drones monitoring crowds.
‘The coronation will be in the heart of London with members of the public arriving from around the world and the security bill will be colossal,’ Mr Geddes said. ‘But when you correlate that to the amount of revenue the royal family generates, especially from tourism, it’s a drop in the ocean.
‘In my book, it’s money well spent. Let’s hope it’s a lovely day.’
The number of VIPs at the coronation will surpass those who were at the Queen’s funeral, according to Gold Commander Karen Findlay, who is leading the policing operation. ‘It is an absolutely historic, unprecedented mobilisation for us in terms of scale,’ she said.
Dubbed Operation Golden Orb, the security plan will involve 11,500 officers as well as 10,000 military personnel.
Philip Grindell, a former Met Police counter-terrorism security co-ordinator, also drew a comparison with the Queen’s funeral, which took place with minimal disruption on September 19 last year.
Mr Grindell, who is now CEO and founder of Defuse, a threat and risk management consultancy, said: ‘The scale of the security operation at the coronation will be on similar terms to the Queen’s funeral.
‘We will see politicians, dignitaries and members of royal families from across the world attend the ceremony. With such a huge gathering of world leaders in one place there is a significant risk of a terrorist attack.
‘There will also be huge crowds in Westminster, which amplifies this risk.
‘Then there is crime and public order which includes everything from pickpockets who target large crowds to anti-royalist and other protest groups. There will also be fixated royalists who believe they are the rightful heirs to the throne because they are the illegitimate children of various royal figures throughout history. They include people with mental health issues and they will crave proximity to members of the royal family and turn up at major events, posing a risk to themselves and others.’
On Tuesday night, a man was arrested after allegedly throwing shotgun cartridges into the grounds of Buckingham Palace. The 59-year-old was detained under the mental health act and taken to hospital, where he remains on bail while receiving medical care, according to the Met.
The array of security considerations also includes the fall-out from Prince Harry’s comments about killing the enemy while serving in Afghanistan — with the fifth in line to the throne due to attend the ceremony.
The current terror threat level to the UK is ‘substantial’, according to MI5.
Mr Grindell assessed crude vehicle-borne or knife attacks as being more likely than those using firearms or explosives.
‘The coronation takes place over three days and the idea is to make it a positive event, with high but unobtrusive security and a lot of work going on in the background,’ he said.
‘The threats of vehicle or knife attacks will be more likely than someone with a gun. Self-inspired Islamic extremists may look to carry out lone attacks after Prince Harry’s statements about killing the enemy in Afghanistan.
‘There is also a growing threat from right-wing extremists at a time when there are continued headlines about immigration and a person of colour in No10. So the security teams involved will factor in the threat from both extremes to help deliver a safe event.’
Police have warned activists will be dealt with ‘very swiftly’ at the coronation if they engage in acts of civil disobediance such as blocking roads.
Officers are now armed with the new Public Order Act, where protesters who interfere with ‘key national infrastructure’ such as roads and railways can be jailed for up to a year.
Met Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said: ‘What we will not stand for is anyone committing criminal acts in the name of protests.
‘We’ll come down very swiftly to make sure people going about their normal business, who just want to enjoy the coronation, are not interfered with.
‘Criminal behaviour camouflaged as protest will be dealt with.’
Protesters will only have a limited opportunity to target Their Royal Highnesses in person as they travel 1.3 miles in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey and back again.
Helicopters, horse-mounted police, dog teams and the Met’s marine unit will help to form the ring of steel. Officers will also use controversial facial recognition technology to operate a ‘watch list’ in Westminster.
A spokesperson for the Met said: ‘As with all major public policing events, the Met has a proportionate policing plan in place for the coronation.’
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