A heckler who branded Prince Andrew “a sick old man” during the procession of the Queen’s coffin through Edinburgh has been charged with breaching the peace.
According to footage on social media, mourners responded to the protester with “God Save The King”, while officers appeared to tackle the 22-year-old to the ground. Identified to the Scottish media as “Rory”, in the clip, the man can be heard shouting “disgusting” and “I’ve done nothing wrong” as he’s being dragged away.
The Duke of York, who stepped away from royal duties and was stripped of his military affiliations and royal patronages, was joined by other members of the Royal Family as he walked behind his mother’s coffin from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to the nearby St. Giles’ Cathedral.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “A 22-year-old man was arrested and charged in connection with a breach of the peace on the Royal Mile around 2.50pm on Monday, 12 September 2022. He was released on an undertaking to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court at a later date and a report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal.”
Another anti-monarchy protester was also led away by police after holding up a placard saying “not my King” while King Charles addressed parliament. The arrests have caused uproar and led many to claim that their right to freedom of speech is under threat.
Jodie Beck, policy and campaigns officer at civil rights group Liberty, said: “Whoever you are, whatever your cause, it is vital you are able to stand up for what you believe in without facing the risk of criminalisation. It is very worrying to see the police enforcing their broad powers in such a heavy-handed and punitive way to clamp down on free speech and expression.”
Adam Wagner, a human rights barrister, said that “the police should leave well alone” as people protest against the monarchy. “Freedom of speech is as important a value in times of public mourning as it at any other time,” he said in a Twitter thread. “Protest is often inconvenient and irritating—but still a central part of our democracy.”
He added: “Times of public emotional sentiment are often danger times for rights, as people forget, temporarily, that a liberal society benefits from multiple points of view.”
In 2020, the Duke of York resigned from his public role after he was questioned over his friendship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. In February 2022, he reached an out-of-court settlement with no admission of liability with Virginia Giuffre, who accused Prince Andrew of sexual assault when she was 17.