LONDON (AP) — The coronation of King Charles III involves one of the most important and complex security operations in U.K. history, Britain’s security minister said Wednesday, after police arrested a man and blew up a suspicious bag outside Buckingham Palace.
A suspect was being questioned by police over Tuesday’s incident, which happened four days before scores of foreign royals, dignitaries and heads of state are expected to attend the coronation of King Charles III.
Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said the coronation involves “one of the most important security operations that the country has put into plan.”
“This is an enormously important moment for the country,” Tugendhat told Times Radio. “The police are, to put it mildly, all over it, and our intelligence and other security forces are extremely aware of the challenges that we face and ready to deal with them — as the police did quite brilliantly yesterday.”
The Metropolitan Police said officers arrested a man on Tuesday evening after he approached the palace gates and asked to speak to a soldier. When he was refused, he began to throw shotgun cartridges into the palace grounds, the force said.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said the man was searched and a lock knife was found. He was arrested on suspicion of possession of a knife and ammunition.
Video footage showed a man being walked backward away from the palace gates by police officers.
Adelekan said the man’s knapsack was blown up in a controlled explosion after the suspect told officers to handle it with care.
Police said the run-in was not being treated as terrorism-related. No shots were fired, and no one was injured.
Charles and Camilla, the queen consort, were not at Buckingham Palace at the time.
It took place just days ahead of Charles’ coronation ceremony, which is scheduled for Saturday at nearby Westminster Abbey. Buckingham Palace has seen a flurry of activity as tourists and international media begin to descend for the coronation — the first to take place in the country since Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953.
More than 9,000 police officers will be on coronation day duty in London. Tugendhat said the presence of so many foreign dignitaries — and potentially myriad protesters — made it “a very complex policing operation, a very complex intelligence operation.”
Hundreds of anti-monarchist protesters plan to chant “Not my king” during the procession, and police say environmental activists could also try to disrupt the ceremonies.
Activists accused authorities of trying to intimidate protesters with a government letter reminding them of new police powers to curb disruptive demonstrations.
New measures in the Public Order Act, introduced in response to civil disobedience by environmental groups, allow police to search demonstrators for items including locks and glue and imposes penalties of up to 12 months in prison for protesters who block roads or interfere with “national infrastructure.”
Graham Smith of anti-monarchist group Republic described the letter as “intimidatory.” He said the group would protest as planned on coronation day.