As the royal family gets ready for the coronation of King Charles this weekend, Britain’s leading anti-monarchy group Republic is gearing up to loudly voice its opposition with a series of #NotMyKing protests along the route of the 74-year-old monarch’s procession in central London.
Founded in 1983 as an umbrella group of anti-monarchists, Republic is a pressure group calling for an end to the U.K.’s system of constitutional monarchy and to replace the monarch with an elected head of state.
Previously, the group protested the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011 and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in 2018.
The latest opinion polls reflect declining support for the monarchy since the death of the late Queen Elizabeth II, and Charles’ personal approval rating has scarcely matched that of his mother.
TIME spoke with Republic’s chief executive Graham Smith about why support for the monarchy is declining, what support for a republic indicates, and where Britain’s anti-monarchist movement will head next.
TIME: What’s your view on the coronation as an anti-monarchist?
Smith: It’s very simple: Instead of a coronation, we want an election. Instead of Charles, we want choice. The coronation is a pointless vanity parade that’s costing a quarter of a billion pounds for Charles to parade along and have a hat put on his head when we’re in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis—so it really isn’t acceptable.
What do you have planned for the day of the coronation?
Basically, we have about 1,700 and possibly more people going beyond Trafalgar Square, right next to the route that Charles will undertake for the coronation procession, to protest. There will be hundreds of placards and banners, and there will be speeches and a lot of chanting “You’re not my king!”
How optimistic are you feeling about the Republican movement at this very moment?
As Republicans, we’re feeling positive. We’ve got thousands of people coming down to protests; we’re getting a lot of media coverage; we’re getting huge amounts of donations and new members. So it’s working well for us as an opportunity to get our message across to millions of people.
Have you seen a boost in the last few years?
Yeah, I think there’s been a sharp drop in support for the monarchy over the last few years. We’re now down to about 55% [according to the National Center for Social Research].
Why do you think support is dwindling?
A lot of the monarchy was tied up with the Queen, and Charles isn’t the queen. That’s a large part of it. And then there are big shifts in attitudes—I think that in very different ways, Harry and Andrew have done a lot of damage to the monarchy, and so the spell is broken. People don’t see them as anything different or special.
Read more: Is the British Monarchy Still Popular?
It seems like there are clear generational differences in attitudes toward the monarchy?
It wasn’t that many years ago that a majority of young people favored the monarchy, and that’s completely flipped [a recent YouGov survey found that only 33% of 18-24 year-olds in the U.K. supported the monarchy]. So there is a sharp change in attitude there and that’s not going to go back.
It’s really people over the age of 65 who keep the overall poll above 50%, and I think that’s going to change over the next 10 years.
For people who are more conservative in their views on the monarchy, what message would you give them?
I’d say that we’re talking about democracy and our monarchy does not stand for the values that most people in this country support. It’s not a left-right issue, it is a democratic issue.
What is your opinion of Charles?
Well, I don’t have much of an opinion of Charles. I think that anybody who would be willing to take a job like that without any accountability, who is happy to take a job where he doesn’t have to pay tax, and that carries all sorts of exemptions and privileges that cost the country. I think that speaks quite loudly about the sort of person here.
We’ve seen Charles and William both advocate for this idea of slimming down the monarchy and making it more relevant for the times that we live in. What do you think of this reformist zeal?
There’s no such thing as a modern monarchy. It’s either what we’ve got or nothing. I mean, it just doesn’t… there’s no room for it to reform. And they talked about modernizing, but the coronation is a great big advert for them not modernizing. It’s the same medieval nonsense that they did 70 years ago, the same disguise for public spending as 70 years ago. People are just going to be looking at this and thinking, “What the hell is going on here?”
You’ve mentioned the cost of the coronation before. Where do you think the royal family is missing the mark when it comes to the cost of living crisis?
There’s increasingly a lot of talk about the finances of the Royal family. A lot of people were surprised to see that Charles isn;t required to pay any inheritance tax. And then to find out there is a quarter of a billion pounds spent on his parade, which is entirely unnecessary, at a time when there’s a cost of living crisis, is pretty crass. We’re now learning that he’s probably worth a billion or two personally, so he can pay for himself.
Read more: What to Know About King Charles III’s Billions
In what ways would you say that the crown is bad for politics?
The crown is a source of legal and political power in this country, and it puts all that power in the hands of the government. We have a highly centralized government, a parliament that’s by and large a rubber stamp for the government, and very few checks and balances. The Monarch is a puppet of the Prime Minister, rather than an independent head of state. So it’s really no good for us at all.
You have drummed up some support in the last year from politicians. Can you tell us what attitudes you’re seeing in parliament?
Politicians are generally quite shy about this issue at the moment. There’s a lot of agreement in parliament, but they’re not necessarily yet willing to speak up. Clive Lewis, a Labour MP, has been doing a very good job of speaking up and will be speaking at the protests. I hope that will prompt other MPs to start talking about this seriously.
In a scenario where Britain becomes a republic, what happens to the 56 member states that form the Commonwealth?
75% of those countries are republics, and more than 90% of people that live in the Commonwealth, live in a republic. So the monarchy really has very little to do with the Commonwealth. All they do is exploit it for their own PR purposes by implying that there is a connection; there really isn’t.
How do you plan to continue the campaign after the coronation?
To some extent, we’re going to sit down to work that out after the weekend. But in the immediate months after, we’re going to continue to protest where Charles and some property also work with unions; really push to drive up membership; and continue to engage with people on what the democratic alternative is. I think that’s one of the key things to talk to people about.
Lastly, where do you see the future of the Republic movement heading?
I think we’re gonna be successful. I think it’s just a matter of when. It’s not inevitable and we shouldn’t be complacent, but I think it definitely will happen. If the support does go under 50% then the monarchy loses any last claim to legitimacy, and then there has to be a serious debate about getting rid of it.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
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