Police watchdog to investigate truncheon blow

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The Independent Online

The independent police watchdog launched an investigation yesterday into the case of a 20-year-old student left unconscious with bleeding on the brain after being hit by a police truncheon during Thursday's protests.

Alfie Meadows, a philosophy student at Middlesex University, suffered a stroke after being hit as he tried to leave the area outside Westminster Abbey where students had been "kettled" by the police.

Yesterday, his mother, Susan Matthews, said he had pulled through after an operation. A friend, Professor Peter Hallward, added: "He is still in a critical condition, but he is alive."

Professor Hallward, a lecturer, said he found the second-year undergraduate in a dazed state at around 6.15pm. "The surface wound wasn't very big but, three hours after the blow, he suffered bleeding to the brain. He survived the operation and he's in the recovery room. Basically, he had a stroke last night. He couldn't speak or move his hand. But, thanks to the wonderful medical care, he's come through it. It was terrifying.

"He's got tubes coming out of him everywhere. He will be in hospital for quite a while; it was a very major thing. It was the most tremendous blow to his head," Professor Hallward said.

He described Mr Meadows as an "affable, good humoured, ordinary young man" who was a passionately committed student.

His mother said she felt "very strongly" about police behaviour. "It's part of a pattern of the way in which these events are being policed. Alfie said to me before this happened 'Somebody is going to get killed'. It's very frightening."

Yesterday the Independent Police Complaints Commission appealed for witnesses as it announced an investigation into the allegation that Mr Meadows had been hit by a police truncheon.

The student leader Mark Bergfeld, of the Education Activist Network, accused the police of brutality. He said protesters had been kept at Parliament Square in "horrendous" conditions as they were "kettled" until the early hours of the morning. "I saw 14-year-olds carry out their friends with cracked heads."

However, some protesters were accused of using tactics employed during the Toxteth riots in the 1980s. Officers reported students throwing paint at their visors, forcing them to lift them to see, and then following it up with missiles such as stones and snooker balls. In all, 43 demonstrators and 12 police were injured during the protest.

Student protesters will open a new front on Monday as they turn their fire on the Government's decision to scrap help for poorer youngsters to stay on at school after the age of 16. They will unite with lecturers to hold lunch-time demonstrations against moves to end the educational maintenance allowance. The action will be followed by a protest in Westminster. The Tories promised before the election not to abolish the allowance.