Kettling video 'appalling', police watchdog panel chair says
Victoria Borwick encourages protesters at anti-student fees demonstration to make complaints against Metropolitan police after 'ghastly' incident
The chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority's civil liberties panel has condemned video footage appearing to show protesters being crushed by police attempting to contain them in a "kettle" during student anti-fees demonstrations in London two weeks ago as "appalling" and "ghastly".Victoria Borwick, who is also a Conservative member of the Greater London Authority, encouraged protesters to make official complaints against the Met and said other police forces were making a better job of public order policing.
"Other forces do this much better," she told the Guardian. "They are very clear with protesters and tell them beforehand what they will do… I hope people make proper complaints to the police about this."
The MPA, the body that scrutinises the work of the Met, said it would be calling a senior police officer to report formally on tactics used during the four student demonstrations over the last two months.
Footage recorded on a mobile phone by an Oxford University postgraduate student shows protesters shouting and screaming "there's no room" and "there's no space" as police try to push them back with riot shields.
Someone, believed to be a protester, can be heard shouting: "You're going to fucking kill someone tonight."
Towards the end of the film, shot near Westminster underground station a few hours before protesters were kettled on Westminster bridge, mounted officers can be seeing using their horses to push the crowd back further.Borwick said: "The MPA civil liberties panel is there to restore confidence in public order policing and then, when you see videos like this, people get very, very angry.
"People can't run rampant around London, but it [the footage] is appalling … it looks ghastly. You can hear in the tone of people's voices that they are distressed."
Musab Younis, 22, from Manchester, who is currently reading international relations at Wadham College, says he started shooting the video not long after the result of the tuition fees vote was announced to the crowd gathered outside parliament."A lot of people were trying to leave the kettle and the police were trying to move in, trying to push people further into Parliament Square," he said.
Younis estimates that around 1,000 people were being held next to Westminster tube station, around 20 metres from the bridge, when police began moving in from both sides, crushing those in the crowd.
"We were hemmed in by a wall on one side, vans and horses on another side, and two lines of police moving in on us," he said.
"I don't know [if] I've ever been in a situation where I've been so crushed before. The police didn't care whether you had any space to move, and if they had to trample you to move forward, then they would."
Younis, the deputy editor of Ceasefire magazine, told the Guardian he had been trapped in previous kettles at the G20 protests, during which Ian Tomlinson, a bystander, was killed.
"This was a far more aggressive form of kettling," he said.
"We were pleading with the police on the front lines, saying 'there's no space, you are hurting people, people are in real pain'. There was a girl who couldn't breathe.
"We got no response. And if you didn't move, they'd kick you in the shins. It sounded like serious injuries were occurring because of the insanely small space they'd given us.
"The worst part wasn't in the video. The police knocked my phone out of my hands and they continued to move in tighter and tighter, and there was crying and screaming. I couldn't even hold the camera up because I couldn't lift my arms it was so tight," he added.
David Hough, a 51-year-old supply teacher who was also caught in up the kettle, said: "As at Hillsborough, people were being squashed against a solid object and they were saying 'I can't breathe'."
Jenny Jones, a Green party GLA and civil liberties panel member who also viewed the footage, said: "This kettling incident by the Met is the most disturbing so far in a sequence that gets more risky and threatening with each repeat.
"The use of horses in such a situation is astonishing, and I'll be raising this with the commissioner [Sir Paul Stephenson]."
David Mead, an expert in public order policing and law at the University of East Anglia, said physically restricting the space occupied by protesters was a significant development from previous kettling exercises. "I suspect this is likely not to be a lawful kettle," he added.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan police said: "Containment and dispersal is a tactic available to us, but it is only used as a tactic of last resort to prevent an actual or imminent breach of the peace.
"We consider the health and wellbeing of those within the containment and will attend to the needs of any vulnerable people, looking to release them at the earliest opportunity.
"Containment and dispersal will always be done in a controlled way to protect those involved and those in the immediate vicinity, but also to protect any evidence and any investigation."