Protester halts slavery service to demand apology from the Queen (who was born 120 years after Britain led the world in banning it)

27th March 2007

Toyin Agbetu brought proceedings to a halt when he ran in front of the altar at Westminster Abbey shouting

A protester sparked a massive security alert today when he came within 10 feet of the Queen and Tony Blair to protest about slavery.

Toyin Agbetu interrupted a service to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Slave Trade Act today.

He brought proceedings to a halt when he ran in front of the altar at Westminster Abbey shouting "you should be ashamed" and "this is an insult to us".

He also demanded that the Queen, who attended the ceremony with Prime Minister Tony Blair, apologised for her ancestors' role in supporting slavery.

Security guards rushed forward to apprehend the 39-year-old, who shouted "let go of me", before being escorted outside several minutes later. Once outside he was restrained by police.

Mr Agbetu was surrounded at one point by seven royal bodyguards and two Abbey ushers as they attempted to control him.

He shouted: "We should not be here, this is an insult to us. I want all the Christians who are Africans to walk out."

Outside, Mr Agbetu demanded that the Queen apologise for her ancestors' role in supporting the slave trade.

Agbetu demanded that the Queen apologise for slavery. Her Majesty can be seen sitting in the top right corner of the photo

"The Queen has to say sorry. It was Elizabeth I. She commanded John Hawkins to take his ship. The monarch and the Government and the church are all in there patting themselves on the back."

He said he was from the Ligali Organisation and said he planned the protest in advance.

He added: "This nation has never apologised, there was no mention of the African freedom fighters. This is just a memorial of William Wilberforce."

The protester interrupted the service during the confession and absolution, during which Pastor Agu Irukwu was reading about the suffering of the Africans who were enslaved.

He ran from the congregation in the south transept to the space in front of the altar - around 10ft from where the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were sitting.

Agbetu held back by guards: He demanded that the Queen apologise for slavery

Later Mr Agbetu was taken to the Dean's Yard next to the Abbey by police.

Receiver General of the Abbey Major General David Burden said: "We deeply regret the incident but the service is continuing conducted by the Dean in the normal way.

"We are sorry that this incident has taken publicity away from the main service."

Half an hour later at the end of the service, the Queen emerged from the Abbey to place flowers on the memorial to innocent victims outside before being driven away.

Henry Bonsu was one of several people who ran up to the protester as security guards tried to apprehend him.

Not flustered: The Queen keeps her cool at the ceremony

Mr Bonsu, a radio presenter who knows Mr Agbetu but was not sitting with him, said: "It just happened at a moment of great solemnity. He just couldn't take it any longer.

"In the cold light of day, people will see he wasn't threatening the Queen. He wasn't threatening the Prime Minister. He just wanted to make his point when the cameras of the world were on the Abbey.

"I quickly went up with one or two people. I wanted to make sure he wasn't threatened. He's the most law-abiding person you ever would meet."

Mr Bonsu added: "The Queen, as ever, was unruffled but she looked interested."