Sunday, 28 November 2010

It's a Fair Cop, We Dunnit*

The video shows mounted police advancing towards protesters at 1min 10 secs

Scotland Yard is under pressure after video footage emerged of police officers on horseback charging a crowd of protesters during a demonstration against increases in university tuition fees, 24 hours after they denied that horses charged the crowd.

Footage posted on YouTube showed mounted police riding at speed into a crowd of around 1,000 protesters who had gathered south of Trafalgar Square on Wednesday night.

The footage of the horse charge came as Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, declined to rule out joining future demonstrations against fees increases. Asked on BBC radio if he would join future protests, Miliband said: "I was quite tempted to go out and talk to them [the protesters]. Peaceful demonstrations are part of our society. As Labour leader I am willing to talk to people who are part of them."

The Tories accused him of "dithering" over the issue.

At a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority the day after the protests, the Met's commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, was asked if there had been horse charges at the protests. He replied: "I was at the debrief last night, there was no reference to that whatsoever and I have no reference to it."

The Met was also accused last night of provoking protesters into criminality. Another piece of footage from a Sky News cameraman 12 minutes before the police decision to contain the protesters showed demonstrators milling around by a police van, which the Met said they had abandoned because "officers felt vulnerable". The video has now given rise to accusations that the van was left deliberately to "bait" protesters. It was later vandalised.

At Thursday's MPA meeting, Joanne McCartney, a MPA member, pressed Stephenson to clarify the situation over the horseback charge by officers. He said: "Of course I will, but in doing that I don't want to then create a headline saying *I'm acknowledging something's happened."


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