The disabled journalist who was dragged from his wheelchair by police has said he was the victim of an “unprovoked” and “violent” attack.
Eastlondonlines’ exclusive picture of the moment freelance journalist and blogger Jody McIntyre was forcibly dragged from his wheelchair by riot police has generated a huge amount of attention over the past 24-hours, including a debate on Twitter about the veracity of the picture.
Mr McIntyre described what happened: “I was in Parliament Sq with my brother and we saw everyone running to one of the corners so we ran and made our way to the front.
“One policeman hit me with his baton in the shoulder then suddenly four or five of them picked me up, and dragged me from my chair. They carried me quite violently and against my will and put me on the pavement.
“Eventually after about 5 minutes, my brother was let through.
“What was even more shocking though, later on I had moved to the other side of Parliament Sq and I was sitting in my wheelchair in space in the middle of the road. A policeman recognised me from the earlier incident and came running over, pushed me out of my chair and dragged me across the road. This was completely unprovoked.”
Mr. McIntyre has not yet decided whether he will make a complaint against police, but was eager to make the point that this is not an isolated incident. “I’ve been to a lot of these protests and people are always violent with me” he said.
“Even though I’m in a wheelchair, I like to think we’re all equal human beings. There was plenty of violence towards students yesterday, and even though I’ve had media attention, all of this violence is equally disgraceful. But this is standard police behaviour.”
In response, the Metropolitan Police Service told East London Lines: “We would encourage anyone with concerns over the way we handle the needs of wheelchair users in such situations, to come forward and speak with us. The MPS actively works with groups to enable peaceful protest by all sections of the community.”
Yesterday’s protest saw 20,000 people march in the city, coinciding with the parliamentary vote on tuition fees. Two of our ten local MPs voted for the rise in tuition fees from the current £3,290 limit to £9,000.
More than 40 demonstrators and 12 police officers were hospitalised during the protests in an around Parliament Square.
Among the injured students were two from Goldsmiths in New Cross, who sustained head injuries after being struck by mounted police using batons. Bindz Patel, the President of Goldsmiths student union said she saw the two students attempting to leave the protest at around 3.30pm, when the horses charged. They were left with bloody head wounds, she said.
Ms Patel was held in a kettle on Westminster Bridge until 11pm. “It was painfully freezing,” Ms Patel said. “I was with a student with a knee condition and there was nowhere for her to sit down. There were riot police behind us, meaning we were all squashed tight together. There was nowhere to go, a lot of confusion and no movement for at least an hour.”
A female student from the college was also hurt after being knocked to the floor by riot police, who employed batons, shields and pepper-spray against protesters.
Dr Des Freedman, Secretary of Goldsmiths Universities and Colleges Union, said he was “terribly disappointed” by parliament’s decision, but that the campaign against cuts was far from over.
Speaking in a personal capacity, he said: “The vote went the wrong way but it does not mean that our opposition to the government’s proposals is any less intense nor our plans to campaign against the fee rises and funding cuts any less necessary.”
Dr Freedman said he was also “very disturbed” by news that a Middlesex University student has undergone emergency brain surgery today after allegedly being struck in the head by a police officer’s truncheon.
“I hope that UCU will call for a full investigation into what appears to be a serious and unprovoked assault on a student as well as an investigation into the implications for peaceful protest of the police tactic of kettling,” Dr Freedman added.
Sam Creighton, Communications Officer for Queen Mary reported only minor injuries among their participating students.
The library occupied by Goldsmiths students in the run-up to yesterday’s demonstrations was today described as being in “foul condition”. In an email to all students, Mary Nixon, the college librarian, said library opening hours will have to be curtailed over the weekend as cleaning staff deal with the aftermath of the three day sit-in.
Ms Nixon said that these are “conditions that we can not tolerate”.
Students using the library today had mixed views on the occupation. Isabell Brikell, 24, was angered by the library’s decision to close over the weekend. “I saw the people who were occupying the library clearing up the books. When I was here on Wednesday it wasn’t that messy,” the psychology student said. “I really don’t think there’s much need for a clean-up over the weekend. It looks pretty tidy today.”
Tonight the group behind the library occupation are voting on whether to stage another demonstration. The library and Deptford Town Hall – which was occupied by students last month – are expected to be targeted.
Update: At 5pm Friday, December 10, 2010, Goldsmiths college library was reoccupied by students.
Additional reporting by Lynn Enright, Padraig Moran and Charlie Cooper. For full coverage of yesterday’s demonstration see here. For ELL coverage of previous demonstrations and anti-cuts action, see here.