West Midlands Police Accused Of 'Disproportionate Force' At Student Protest
4 December 2014, 07:09
Students at Warwick University have told Capital they believe police were deliberately called to break-up a 'peaceful protest' against tuition fees, in which three people were arrested.
A group of around 25 students on campus named Warwick For Free Education held a demonstration yesterday afternoon and then proceeded to the Senate Building in Warwick University's Central Campus to hold a sit-in.
A number of police vehicles arrived at around 4.50pm on Wednesday 3 December after the West Midlands force said it had had "a report that someone had been assaulted by a member of the group."
Videos began circulating online of what's been described as 'disproportionate force' by the officers.
Dan Goss, a member of the WFFE group told Capital: "There were about three police cars turned up and they went in and I heard pepper spray being used.
"They then started sounding a taser gun as a warning. Loads of people were in tears.
"It just felt like they had deliberately been called to break us up, but we were just sitting talking about how we felt education should be paid for."
A statement on the Warwick Free Education website said activists were "punched, pushed on to the floor, dragged, grabbed by the throat and rammed into a wall and kneed in the face.
"At least 20 students were assaulted by university security and police,'' it said.
Warwick Students' Union said that it believed that "disproportionate force'' was used against protesters.
In a statement it said: "This afternoon, a group were demonstrating for Free Education and entered the lobby of Senate House. The police arrived and an altercation took place, the full facts of which we are still in the process of establishing. Three people were arrested.
"From the footage we have seen of this incident, we absolutely believe that disproportionate force was used against protesters. We stand in solidarity with the Warwick students who were unnecessarily harmed in this action.
Police said they would investigate the contents of the videos.
Coventry Police commander Chief Superintendent Claire Bell said: "Police officers are highly trained in dealing with all public order situations and using appropriate levels of force.
"We are aware of videos of the protest being circulated on social media sites, which will be examined.
"We expect the highest standards from all officers, and if any officer is found to have fallen below these standards in any way, they will be thoroughly investigated.''
A spokesman from West Midlands Police said: "Police were called to reports of an assault at the University of Warwick Central Campus in Coventry this afternoon.
"Officers arrived at Senate House at 4.50pm to find a group of around 25 students protesting about fees and a staff member reported that he had been assaulted by one of the group.
"Three people were arrested from the site, one on suspicion of assault and two others on suspicion of obstructing police.
"During the incident a Taser was drawn as a visible and audible warning to prevent a further disorder. The Taser was not pointed at anyone and was not fired.
"CS spray was also used by police during the protest when a group advanced on officers.
"Police officers and security staff from the university worked together to ensure everyone was safe. The protest continues and officers remain at the scene to ensure there is no further breach of the peace.''