A FORMER police chief constable has warned against a “totalitarian police state” following the arrest of anti-monarchy protesters ahead of the coronation on Saturday.

Sue Sim, a former chief constable of Northumbria Police, told The World This Weekend on BBC Radio 4 that the protesters “have their right to protest as long as it’s peaceful”.

The Metropolitan Police has been heavily criticised over the detentions, with some campaign groups likening the “incredibly alarming” arrests to “something you would expect to see in Moscow, not London”.

READ MORE: Who is Graham Smith? The Republic leader arrested

The force confirmed 52 people were arrested for affray, public order offences, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance around the coronation.

We told how the CEO of Republic, an anti-monarchy campaign group, was released after 16 hours in custody, alongside other members of the group who were detained. 

Karen Findlay, Met police commander, acknowledged concerns about the arrest of protesters but defended Scotland Yard’s actions.

“Our duty is to do so in a proportionate manner in line with relevant legislation," she said. 

But campaigners said the protests were “peaceful”, describing the arrests as “a dangerous precedent for us as a democratic nation”.

Sim said she saw this sort of thing happening after the controversial Public Order Act was rushed through Parliament in time for the coronation.

“Once the new Public Order Act had been rushed through Parliament last week, I did think this sort of thing was going to happen," she said.

"However, I must say I am very, very disappointed that that did happen.

“My own view is that, actually, there is considerable legislation that you can use in relation to protesting.

"I think, unfortunately, the problem with yesterday is that the Metropolitan Police did not want any type of public spectacle.

“As a chief constable, you are independent of politics, you need to stand and be objective. I personally didn’t agree with them (protesting), but as a former chief constable I totally appreciate that they have their right to protest as long as it’s peaceful.

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“I think when you’re talking about terrorism, where people’s lives are at risk, that’s a very different thing. But where you are talking about peaceful protest the whole thing for me is, what type of society do we want? We do not want a totalitarian police state.”

We previously told how Republic CEO Graham Smith was released by the Met Police at around 11pm on Saturday, while the majority of his Republic colleagues continued to be held.

Later, Smith said in a statement on Republic's website that police officers were "heavy-handed" and showed "no judgement, no common sense and no basic decency".