London ~ Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Footage shows protester dragged from wheelchair
Criticism grows as police admit to talks over use of water cannons
By Michael Savage and Nigel Morris
Jody McIntyre, who has cerebral palsy, was dragged out of his wheelchair twice by the same police officer (Jane Mingay)
The Metropolitan Police has referred to its internal directorate of professional standards an incident in which officers dragged a protester from his wheelchair and pulled him across a street, after footage of the event emerged online.
Jody McIntyre, 20, who suffers from cerebral palsy, said he was twice pulled out of his wheelchair by the same officer during the protest against the Coalition Government's plan to raise university tuition fees.
The video footage came to light after Mr McIntyre appealed for witnesses to the incident, amid further claims that the police used disproportionate force in dealing with peaceful demonstrators last week. It shows an officer pulling Mr McIntyre from his upturned wheelchair and dragging him across a street leading into Parliament Square, provoking anger from other protesters around him. The officer is then himself pulled away by one of his colleagues.
Mr McIntyre told The Independent he was consulting lawyers about his treatment. He has collected witness statements and the badge number of the officer involved. He said he would be taking legal action and will also lodge a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
"[The police] are out of control," he said. "I have just as much right as everyone else to protest. My 16-year-old brother now believes he will be unable to go to university because of the higher fees involved."
The IPCC said it had yet to receive a complaint relating to the case, but the Metropolitan Police confirmed last night that its internal standards body was "investigating the circumstances surrounding this matter". A spokesman said he could not yet comment on the allegations of mistreatment.
Scotland Yard said last night it would alter its tactics and use stop-and-search powers to target troublemakers. Commander Bob Broadhurst, in charge of overseeing the handling of the demonstrations, said there were no immediate plans to use water cannon, but added: "It would be foolish if we did not look at tactics such as this to see if it might be appropriate in the future." It emerged last night that Scotland Yard is liaising with the Police Service of Northern Ireland "seeking up-to-date advice and knowledge about water cannons".
Video: Jody McIntyre Poorly Treated by Police (from 1.25) WARNING: CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE
Meanwhile, protesters and MPs yesterday accused the police of deliberately deploying hostile tactics designed to discourage people from attending future demonstrations. Some students desperate to leave Parliament Square, where they had been "kettled" by police, described how they were forcibly pushed there by riot police.
A group from the Courtauld Institute of Art was among those pushed back into the area. The students had been guided by one of their lecturers, Professor Joanna Woodall, into a plaza on Whitehall in order to avoid the volatile atmosphere of Parliament Square. However, they were all pushed back by police, while Professor Woodall was picked up by an officer and thrown back into a crowd of protesters.
"We deliberately moved the students to the area and asked them to line up against a wall to keep them out of the way," she said. "But the police pushed us back. It is the criminalisation of everyone that is so worrying. I would say 98 per cent of the people inside that kettle last week were peaceful."
Daisy Jones, 25, president of the institute's student union, described how their group was crushed as police horses drove them back towards Parliament Square. She also said some other students from the institute faced "horrendous conditions", with one suffering a panic attack after being kettled on Westminster Bridge until 11.30pm. Another student was struck by a riot officer's shield.
"We are not a militant university by any means, but we care about the decision to cut higher education spending," she said. "I worked hard to encourage people to come out on this demonstration. Peaceful people will surely be reluctant to participate again.
"I can't help thinking that seems to be the tactic being used by police – using this approach to discourage the many peaceful people who do not usually go on protests from attending."
Successive MPs complained about heavy-handed police tactics – in particular the use of kettling – as Theresa May, the Home Secretary, made a Commons statement yesterday on the violence in London's streets.
The former Labour minister Malcolm Wicks said: "This is becoming more and more common, including the kettling of children. Isn't this a form of open-air imprisonment which has nothing to do with policing in this country?"
David Lammy, another former minister, challenged Ms May over minors getting caught up in the kettle, and said complaints over the tactic had been passed to the IPCC. Kerry McCarthy said students from her Labour constituency of Bristol East had shown her evidence that police had "overstepped the mark".
Ms May insisted that protesters caught up in kettles had been able to leave – a claim disputed by many MPs. She said kettling had been appropriate.
Gloomy footage of a dark moment for British policing
Filmed in the shadows of the Westminster streets as twilight gave way to darkness last Thursday, the footage is at times hard to make out. But the sight of a young man being dragged along the street by police is clear for all to see – as it is in another photograph showing officers tackling Jody McIntyre earlier the same day.
Having uttered the ominous words "We are in a bad place", the amateur cameraman and his friends spot Mr McIntyre across the road from them. "The guy in the wheelchair gave us a talk at the occupation," says one on the footage, before noting their admiration for him as "cool" and a "hard nut".
Though it is almost too dark to see Mr McIntyre being hauled from his wheelchair just seconds later, sudden and repeated shouts of "What the fuck are you doing?" make it obvious what it going on. Moments later, Mr McIntyre can be seen lying in the road as a policeman drags him towards the kerb and the camera.
"You just tipped him over," cries a voice, as another officer prevents fellow protesters from intervening. Bellows of "Scum!" ring out, and the video eventually cuts off just after a policeman is pulled away from the ensuing mêlée by fellow officers. Rob Hastings
London ~ Wednesday, 15 December 2010, page 15
Student fees protest: lawyers launch legal challenge to kettling
Kettling breaches human rights, lawyers for five student fees demonstrators tell Metropolitan police commissioner
By Matthew Taylor
Kettling at the student fees protest is being challenged by lawyers on human rights grounds. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Lawyers have launched a legal challenge to the police tactic of kettling during recent student demonstrations, claiming a breach of human rights.
The lawyers, acting for five of the thousands of demonstrators penned in by police last Thursday, have written to the commissioner for the Metropolitan police, Sir Paul Stephenson,arguing that kettling breaches European human rights legislation.
The latest student demonstration saw thousands of people descend on London to protest about the rise in tuition fees and the drastic cuts to post-16 education.
There were outbreaks of violence and several thousand demonstrators were kettled for hours in falling temperatures in three separate locations in central London.
The five demonstrators – including four sixth-formers – say they were kettled for up to five hours in Trafalgar Square.
Bethany Shiner, 23, the lead claimant, said: "I was with a group of young people who behaved at all times perfectly properly and lawfully. We then found ourselves kettled in sub-zero temperatures."
Shiner, who has completed a masters degree in art and politics at Goldsmiths, University of London, added: "It is outrageous that the police should resort to such tactics against all protestors, most of whom were acting peacefully."
The are represented by Bethany's father, Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers. He says the police tactics breach articles 5, 10 and 11 of the European convention on human Rights. "My clients are very concerned that the Metropolitan police are now using kettling as a stock response to all public protests and appear to have authorised kettling in advance of this particular protest," he said.
He has sent a pre-action letter to Stephenson and the police have 14 days to respond. He added: "The police are required to have a range of lawful responses to different scenarios and not just resort to the most coercive tactics at the first sign of trouble. The policy of kettling has to be struck down."
The legal challenge came as the Met said more than 180 people have been arrested concerning the student protests. Senior officers said most of the 182 suspects were aged between 17 and 25 and had no records of violence or crime.
Detective Chief Superintendent Matt Horne, who is leading the inquiry, said he expects more people to be arrested as a team of 80 officers comb through video and stills footage.
Speaking at New Scotland Yard today, where protesters were expected to attempt to "kettle" police later, he said the inquiry could take months to complete.
In apparent contradiction to Theresa May's comments in the Commons yesterday, when the home secretary blamed violence on "an organised group of hardcore activists and street gangs", Horne added: "What struck me is the number of people arrested who did not go that day with necessarily any intention of committing any violent action."
He said there had been a "stark contrast" between scenes in Westminster and at the protesters' homes, where police had been confronted with crying parents and shocked young people.
He added: "I would urge those who turn up for protests to think about the impact this could have on their future careers. When they are shown footage of their actions that day, some are shocked by the impact of their behaviour."
Stephenson said he had been "stripping London out" to police the protests, adding that almost 3,000 officers were deployed last Thursday. The Met had ruled out using water cannon three years ago, but was taking advice from colleagues in Northern Ireland about whether they could be used in London.
Senior officers would consider asking the home secretary to ban forthcoming marches.
London ~ Saturday December 11 2010, page 6
Student fees protests: who started the violence?
David Cameron accuses 'feral mob' but students point to heavy-handed kettling tactics that trapped thousands in freezing cold
By Esther Addley
Police and protesters clash in Parliament Square (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
With the clean-up of broken glass, charred benches and abandoned placards from Parliament Square and Oxford Circus today came the inevitable round of accusation and recrimination.
David Cameron, using uncharacteristically frank language, blamed a "mob" who had behaved in an "absolutely feral way" for the sporadic bursts of violence at the anti-fees protest.
"I don't think we can go on saying a small minority were there. There were quite a lot of people who were hellbent on violence and destroying property."
Protesters and student groups, on the other hand, insisted the policing had been heavy-handed and disproportionate, arguing that the kettling for hours of thousands of people within a freezing Parliament Square was certain to cause frustration that would boil into anger.
After a day that saw the heir to the throne's motorcade attacked, the Treasury and supreme court damaged, and more than 50 injured, including a student with a severe brain injury and a police officer with serious neck injuries – and with more protests highly likely in the months to come – the question of exactly what went wrong at yesterday's protest is a pressing one.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission has announced an independent inquiry into the events which saw Alfie Meadows, a 20-year-old student from Middlesex University, undergo three hours of emergency surgery after he was beaten with a police baton and suffered bleeding on the brain. The Met said an internal review was ongoing into an operation that involved 2,800 individual officers and resulted in 33 arrests.
According to police, scuffles first broke out after the protest, which had been called by a loose coalition of student groups called the National Coalition Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), deviated from the agreed route, which initially involved processing south down Horse Guards Road, crossing the north side of Parliament Square, and turning north into Whitehall, before finishing on Victoria embankment, by the Thames.
Many hundreds of police, dressed in fluorescent jackets and soft hats, but with riot helmets at their waists, were already standing shoulder to shoulder along the route, when the demonstration arrived in the square at around 1.30pm.
Within 15 minutes the police line was breached by protesters throwing smoke bombs and eggs, and the crowd spilled across to occupy the whole of Parliament Square, pulling down temporary fencing in order to enter the green.
Simon Hardy, an NCAFC co-organiser, said the line had been breached because: "It was clear that a lot of students wanted to protest in Parliament Square. They weren't satisfied to go to Victoria embankment." He acknowledged the group had not had agreement to protest there, but called the move "radical but good-natured".
It was a move for which the police were demonstrably unprepared. They would shortly change en masse into riot gear, removing their high-visibility jackets in favour of black armoured vests and helmets, with many pulling balaclavas over their faces; the atmosphere, accordingly, became increasingly tense.
For much of the afternoon the mood of the demonstration, in particular at its centre, was good-natured, with protesters dancing to portable sound systems, sitting in small groups playing cards and drinking from flasks, or huddled around small bonfires made from burning placards to ward off the perishing temperatures.
At the four exits to the square, however, sporadic bursts of trouble flared, at times sparked by provocative surges from some demonstrators, but elsewhere marked by no more than a press of bodies into the police lines which were met with baton strikes as officers pushed back.
In one of the most violent incidents, a group with a metal wedge-shaped battering ram charged the police line and broke through to the other side; police responded with a horseback charge in which a number of uninvolved protesters were injured.
Organisers said stewards were present, but they were not obvious and did not appear to have any mediating influence on either side.
One 21-year-old literature student, using the alias raindance77, told the Guardian: "I am a girl of five foot two, I was pushed several times in the face, dragged on the floor and laughed at by police when I told them I had asthma. I asked a policeman where I could go to the toilet; he pointed at the floor by his feet. Another shouted: 'Move, bitch, or I'll squash you with my horse.' "
The first kettle – the Met uses the term "containment" – was imposed at 3.30pm, and though it was lifted occasionally to allow small groups to leave, as darkness fell many protesters spoke of moving from exit to exit before being turned back by officers. While many were attempting to use restraint, others surged forward striking out with batons at heads and knees in an attempt to force back the line.
Frustration grew into the evening, with protesters handing forward over the crowd sections of fencing, which some used to charge at the police lines; a small number smashed concrete blocks to break them into missiles, though many in the crowd were visibly appalled.
At one point a section of the crowd were kettled in Whitehall; later in the evening police moved the remaining protesters on to Westminster Bridge, where they were held, many complaining of crushed conditions, until 11.30pm.
Jenny Jones, the Green party member on the Metropolitan Police Authority who was on the march, said it was important to note that the force "can't win" in its approach to these demos. But the most significant issue, she argued, was a deep and growing lack of trust between the force and the student protesters, exacerbated by kettling on the 24 November protest.
"It is definitely not constructive for the police to stand in a large and intimidating line. It is a shame, because they have got better at this recently. I think the Millbank protest [in which windows were broken at Conservative HQ] was not actually policed too badly, in the sense that I would rather see a broken window in a building than a young person with brain injuries and a [badly injured] police officer."
But many of those who were present felt as frustrated with the troublemakers as they did with the politicians and the police. "It's all really horrible, really irresponsible. Those people are idiots," said Thomas Shepherd, a student from Liverpool Hope University. Had they succeeded in drowning out the message of the day? "Well it's hard to get our message through to them" – gesturing at parliament – "through huge banks of riot police."
Wednesday 1 December 2010
It was seriously cold, it was seriously snowing, but first WAC action a great success!
It was seriously cold, it was seriously snowing, and Westminster was swarming with police, but there was a great turnout this evening for the first Women Against the Cuts event (about 150 or so at its peak I’d judge).
I’m afraid this rather blurry photo is all I have as evidence, because although it wasn’t on the schedule I did spend quite a bit of the evening on megaphone duty…
There was a choir (a definitely higher class of protest), although my favourite chants were along the lines of “non-doms are shite”, and was really pleasing that so many of the protesters took what I suspect was for many their first turn at a megaphone to deliver a personal message about their anger to the treasury.
For an organisation that only started around six weeks ago it was a magnificant effort – the next organising meeting is on Thursday and after that I’m sure much more will be planned.
And there are more great photos here
Women came with song sheets, musical instruments, pots and pans, home made signs, WAC placards and from other women’s networks.
Whitehall was strangely quiet because of the police cordon but passersby took leaflets, smiled and some took their own photos.
But we made out voices heard, the first action of many more to come!
London ~ Tuesday 30 November 2010, G2 page 13
The view from a broad: women against cuts
This evening, Women Against Cuts will gather outside the Treasury in London to protest against the cuts brought in by June's emergency budget and the comprehensive spending review – the brunt of which will be borne by women. To re-cap: women will bear the weight of the majority of benefit cuts, from tax credits to housing benefits, while public sector job-losses will dramatically affect a largely female workforce. The budget is the subject of a formal assessment by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, while the Fawcett Society is seeking a judicial review, arguing that the government failed in its legal duty to promote women's equality. Find information on the demonstration at womenagainstthecuts.wordpress.com.
New analysis shows women and children will bear the brunt of the cuts
By Scarlet Harris
Government ministers have tied themselves in knots trying to argue that their cuts are fair.
Yet new analysis of the budget and spending review shows clearly that women and children will bear the brunt of the cuts. Trying to present this as fair is likely to prove a tough challenge.
The deep, rapid cuts that are now beginning to bite will hit women hard because they make up two-thirds of the public sector workforce and are more likely to use public services and receive benefits, often to support their children.
It may not be their direct intention but the cuts will push an awful lot of women out of well paid, stable employment and into either precarious, part-time or casual labour or back into the home.
The full details are in a new TUC (Trade Union Congress, UK) paper on the gender impact of the cuts which shows how women will:
lose their jobs as a result of public sector job cuts;
lose more income from benefits than men; and
lose more than men through cuts in public services such sexual and reproductive health services, local libraries, Sure Start children’s centres and further education.
The TUC isn’t alone in saying this. The Fawcett Society took the Government to court over their failure to assess the equality impact of the June budget. The Women's Budget Group have accused George Osborne of a stealth tax on women, and in their latest work say that the spending cuts are restoring the age of the male breadwinner. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission is carrying out a formal, independent assessment of the extent to which the Treasury met its legal obligations to consider the gender impact of its spending decisions.
But while the government tries to bat these awkward questions, women are already organising themselves. Groups such as Women Against the Cuts are springing up. Women are playing a leading part in many local campaigns in towns and cities.
Public sector unions are using Equality Impact Assessments to hold employers to account when cuts are being made. Unions are working in collaboration with campaign groups and NGOs to fight cuts at a local level. International Women’s Day 2011 will be a focal point for campaigning against the gender impact of the cuts.
If the government’s strategy was to sit tight and wait for the women to pipe down, and hope that the whole awkward business of gender equality would fade away, I predict that they’ll have a long wait.
• Download full report (pdf) "The Gender Impact of the Cuts A TUC cuts briefing November 2010" HERE
Scarlet Harris is Women's Equality Officer at the Trade Union Congress.
London ~ Sunday October 10, 2010
Man the lifeboats! Women and children last!
By Joan Smith
The rage of middle-class Tory voters over child benefits is entirely predictable. The Prime Minister has only himself to blame
?The traditional family set-up that the Tories admire shouted loudest about changes to child benefit (alamy)
That didn't take long, did it? The coalition government has been in power for less than six months but already class war has broken out in earnest. David Cameron's government as tounded its own supporters last week by announcing changes to child benefit that will make a dent in middle-class incomes, and loyal, right-thinking, Daily Mail readers didn't like it one little bit. The very people who hate state benefits and think government interferes too much in private life suddenly dis covered that hand-outs aren't just a good thing – they're an absolute bloody entitlement if you happen to earn more than £44,000 a year.
At one level, there is something deliciously funny about all this. Howls of outrage threatened to distract attention from Cameron's first conference speech as Prime Minister, and his ministers seemed to be in disarray, caught out by the detail of their own proposals. So wedded are the Conservatives to the notion of a nation made up of single-income, two-parent fami lies, that they had fallen into an ob vious trap, failing to notice that this beloved Tory icon would be treat ed more harshly under their pro posals than a couple of standard-rate taxpayers bringing in £80,000. It was a reminder that Cameron's Conservatives still aren't modern, remaining as bewildered as ever by a diverse society made up of sin gle parents, dual-income families, cohabiting and married couples.
That's why one botched an nouncement was followed by an other, a promise of tax breaks for married couples that confirmed that the Tories are out of touch and promised to throw up anoth er anomaly: weirdly, Cameron's "family-friendly" government ap pears to have committed itself to rewarding through the tax system domestic abusers who remarry, while penalising the spouses who fled from them. But even the promise of tax breaks for married couples wasn't enough to quell middle-class rage about the with drawal of child benefit from higher earners; two days ago the Mail was still describing the proposed cut as "explosive", sending a warning to the coalition that Middle England remains in revolt.
Ministers were rattled and the Cul ture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, tried to retrieve the situation during an in terview on Newsnight by turning fire on those favourite Tory hate-figures, large families on state benefits. In a shameless appeal to class prejudice, Hunt said that the poor should have fewer children and couldn't expect their benefits to be increased if they continued to enlarge their families.
Such rhetoric is popular with some sections of the public, but it doesn't translate easily into policy; there is an undeniable link between large families and poverty – having lots of children is often a symptom and a cause of further deprivation – but it's hard to see why existing children should be punished for their parents' bad choices.
It's one thing to warn future claimants that their benefits will be capped, no matter how many chil dren they have, but quite another to apply the policy retrospectively and push kids into even greater poverty. It's also perfectly reasonable to argue for smaller families, but I can't see why the principle of moderation should apply to a couple living on a council estate in Leeds but not to an affluent family living in a four-storey house in Notting Hill.
At the same time, last week's knockabout headlines point to a con test for resources which is going to become exceedingly bitter as the coalition's spending cuts bite. Under a government ideologically opposed to the big state, it's already clear where the battle lines are going to be drawn: private sector versus pub lic sector; middle-class families ver sus the less well-off; and a north-south divide that's more entrenched than ever.
Families who live in nice houses in the South already feel squeezed; they're fed up with low interest rates on their savings, worried about their adult children's mounting debts and anxious about their own pensions. They have little idea of what life is like in northern towns, where work ing-class families have next to noth ing in reserve if public sector jobs are slashed and benefits cut.
The wealth gap in this country is shocking, and it's set to widen as Tory voters make clear that they're keen on slashing public expendi ture, but only if the pain is felt by other people.
This is the lesson the coalition is likely to take from last week's events, and ministers must also be aware that the angry middle classes will have the support of much of the media. That gives Labour's new leader, Ed Miliband, the tricky task of persuading undecided voters that he understands their anxieties while also continuing to argue that the most vulnerable members of society should be protected.
The first big test for his new team will come later this month when the Government unveils its comprehen sive spending review, but that will also be the moment when the class and gender divide between the par ties will be revealed at its starkest. Despite Cameron's rhetoric about the importance of the family, his economic policies are already giving the impression that in reality it's women and children last.
June's emergency budget had a disproportionate impact on women, as an analysis published by Labour's Yvette Cooper showed. More than 70 per cent of the revenue raised from direct tax and benefit changes will come from female taxpayers; they will contribute nearly £6bn of the almost £8bn net revenue to be raised by the financial year 2014-15, compared with just over £2bn from men. Cooper described the budget as "the fiercest attack on family support in the history of the welfare state", and Cameron's faltering performance in the past few days suggests that he doesn't know what to do about this charge. He appears torn between wanting to be seen to be fair, which means spreading some of the pain, and wanting to please his middle-class supporters as they're egged on by the Mail.
It's a cruel dilemma for the politician credited with ditching the To ries' nasty image. The Prime Minister is getting a powerful message from his core vote – and what they're telling him is that they want class war.