Sunday, 7 December 2014

Police use CS spray and threaten to useTaser against protesting students.

A protest against student tuition fees organised by Warwick University students, turned ugly this week, when burly coppers from Coventry Police, turned up mob handed and sprayed students with CS spray and threatened to fire a Taser to break up the demonstration.

A YouTube video shows a male student running for the door only to be grabbed by an officer and pushed to the floor. A bald copper then wields a can of CS spray and can be heard to say: "Back off, or you'll get CSed." The sound of a Taser being activated and made to crackle can be heard but it was not used.

Although it has been claimed that the police overreacted, a university spokesman, Peter Dunn, stated that the police had been called because of an unprovoked and uncharcteristic attack on a University security officer. "We had no alternative but to ask the police to attend", he said.

Craig McVey, a 24-year-old postgraduate student at the university, said: "It all happened very quickly. The police came in and started grabbing at a person. I got shoved away and there was a big ruckus. It really came out of nowhere. A police officer took out his CS spray and sprayed it in one person's eyes and then into a crowd of about ten people. A lot of younger students were shaken  and left in tears. It was quite a shock, especially considering that it was a quiet protest, we weren't even shouting."

Following the incident, the vice chancellor of Warwick University, sent this e-mail to students:

Statement from the Vice-Chancellor on the December 3rd protest
For many years the student protests we have experienced at Warwick have been characterised by a spirit of co-operation between protesters and University staff which has helped facilitate peaceful protest and a safe environment for students, staff and visitors to our campus.
I was therefore disheartened that yesterday’s protest uncharacteristically saw an unprovoked assault on one of our security team that gave us no alternative but to ask the police to attend the scene to investigate that alleged assault.
Let me be clear that the police were called solely to investigate the alleged assault on a member of staff and not in response to the protest on campus. When the police arrived our security team still endeavoured to get the individual alleged to have made the assault to fully identify himself before the police engaged directly with the protestors.
Sadly that individual, and others present, would not co-operate with this request and the police were obliged to intervene directly. I, like many others, have been saddened by the images of what then occurred which saw police and students having to engage in and resolve an unnecessarily challenging situation which led on from the actions of one individual.
I am sure that the vast majority of our University community continue to wish that campus protests are peaceful and safe for all and also share our hope that this unprovoked act of violence against our security team is an aberration. I am aware that another protest is due to take place on campus today and I very much welcome our Students Union’s reference to that planned protest being peaceful."
Nigel Thrift
University of Warwick

And this from our Students Union:
"Our current understanding of the timeline leading up to the incident is that police officers were called following an allegation of assault on a member of Campus Security during the initial entry into Senate House. Once the officers arrived, the situation escalated, leading to the arrest of 3 members of the group (one on suspicion of assault and two for obstructing police) who have subsequently been bailed. CCTV footage is currently being consulted by local police to ascertain the exact sequence of events.

Once again, we stand in solidarity with students who were unnecessarily harmed in this action, and our primary concern is obviously with the welfare of those who were directly affected by yesterday's events. Students who were in attendance last night are urged to contact the SU's Advice Centre for support and further information regarding formal complaints procedures, while the University's Residential Life team is also offering pastoral care where relevant for those who live on campus.

The role of debate, discussion and dissent are a key part of a democratic society, and students have the right to protest both within the University community and beyond. We are appalled by the severity of the Police's actions last night and, as a matter of the highest urgency, the Sabbatical Officer team have been in constant contact this morning with members of the University's Senior Management team to demand clarification and answers on behalf of the student body.

A further demonstration is planned outside Senate House at 3:30pm today, at which Sabbatical Officers will be in attendance. This is intended as a peaceful rally to protest against last night's actions, and we therefore urge all those attending to exercise good judgement, caution and restraint when participating in what are understandably emotional circumstances for many. Student safety and welfare remains our highest priority, and we echo the hopes of many that this demonstration passes without further incident."

An investigation into whether these police officer's used disproportionate force, has been announced. But don't expect a great deal as this is being carried out by the police themselves. Just why the police felt it was necessary to use CS gas against these young middle-class students armed with nothing more than a smart phone, is strange to say the least. In my younger days, they would have given you a clip behind the ear and arrested you. But I suppose,  that if you equip coppers with Tasers and CS gas canisters, you shouldn't be surprised if they use them in any circumstances.

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