Donald Trump protesters have said they are prepared to launch legal action against the Metropolitan police after they were denied permission for a stage and sound system at a demonstration on Friday.
Tens of thousands of people are expected in central London to protest against the US president’s visit to the UK. They will assemble outside the BBC building in Portland Place on Friday afternoon and plan to march through Regent Street to Trafalgar Square, where there will be a rally organised by the Stop Trump coalition.
More than 60,000 people have indicated they will attend the protest, and thousands more are planning a separate action on Thursday evening in the capital and across the UK. A further 10,000 people are expected to take part in a separate women’s march along the same route on Friday.
Organisers of the Stop Trump rally, including the activist and Guardian columnist Owen Jones said the Met had suddenly denied permission for a stage two days before the protest was due to take place, a move he said was unprecedented in demonstrations he had previously taken part in.
Jones tweeted it had been suggested to him that the government was “leaning” on the Met.
Another organiser, Michael Chessum, said the Met had also refused to meet organisers on the eve of the protests. He said a letter had been sent to the police about potential legal action.
“The police knew well in advance that we were planning to put a stage in the beginning of the protest,” Chessum told the Guardian. “At two days’ notice they’ve cancelled permission for that stage and effectively for a sound system because they said no vehicle can come anywhere near the area.”
In a statement, the Met said it had received a notification last week from the organisers of their intention to bring a vehicle-mounted stage into Portland Place. “As is usual, the Met asked the organisers for a crowd management and safety plan which as organisers they have overarching responsibility for,” it said.
“The Met received diagrams of where the vehicle was to be positioned, with no mention of stewarding for this particular aspect of the event. This was not a formal notification of how crowd safety would be managed.
“At the heart of our policing operation is the right to freedom of speech and peaceful protest. However, we equally have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the public and this current time we do not feel that the proposal from the organisers ensures safety of a crowded place.”
But Chessum said the statement was “ridiculous for a number of reasons”.
“They never asked us for a stewarding plan for the stage itself, we could easily have provided that. We have a huge stewarding operation in place.
“They’ve got a point to the extent that a stage is a static object against which a crowd crush can happen. But in terms of preventing nasty crowd situations, as a steward I can get on a stage, I can have a vantage point. I can direct the crowd and communicate with them. If there’s an emergency I can use the big PA system.”
Part of the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, he added, was that “the police and the state cannot place totally arbitrary and unreasonable limitations on a protest, and that’s what we’re looking at here”.
“I’ve organised many protests over the years. I was chief steward on most of the student demonstrations of 2010. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the police quite this jittery and unreasonable. We will use all avenues to challenge this decision.”
Organisers said Friday’s protest will be family-friendly and peaceful.
But the US embassy has warned Americans in the UK to “keep a low profile” during Trump’s visit over fears demonstrations could turn violent. “Be aware of your surroundings [and] exercise caution if unexpectedly in the vicinity of large gatherings that may become violent,” the embassy warned.