The Metropolitan Police has referred to its internal directorate of professional standards an incident in which officers dragged a protester from his wheelchair and pulled him across a street, after footage of the event emerged online.
Jody McIntyre, 20, who suffers from cerebral palsy, said he was twice pulled out of his wheelchair by the same officer during the protest against the Coalition Government's plan to raise university tuition fees.
The video footage came to light after Mr McIntyre appealed for witnesses to the incident, amid further claims that the police used disproportionate force in dealing with peaceful demonstrators last week. It shows an officer pulling Mr McIntyre from his upturned wheelchair and dragging him across a street leading into Parliament Square, provoking anger from other protesters around him. The officer is then himself pulled away by one of his colleagues.
Mr McIntyre told The Independent he was consulting lawyers about his treatment. He has collected witness statements and the badge number of the officer involved. He said he would be taking legal action and will also lodge a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
"[The police] are out of control," he said. "I have just as much right as everyone else to protest. My 16-year-old brother now believes he will be unable to go to university because of the higher fees involved."
The IPCC said it had yet to receive a complaint relating to the case, but the Metropolitan Police confirmed last night that its internal standards body was "investigating the circumstances surrounding this matter". A spokesman said he could not yet comment on the allegations of mistreatment.
Scotland Yard said last night it would alter its tactics and use stop-and-search powers to target troublemakers. Commander Bob Broadhurst, in charge of overseeing the handling of the demonstrations, said there were no immediate plans to use water cannon, but added: "It would be foolish if we did not look at tactics such as this to see if it might be appropriate in the future." It emerged last night that Scotland Yard is liaising with the Police Service of Northern Ireland "seeking up-to-date advice and knowledge about water cannons".
Meanwhile, protesters and MPs yesterday accused the police of deliberately deploying hostile tactics designed to discourage people from attending future demonstrations. Some students desperate to leave Parliament Square, where they had been "kettled" by police, described how they were forcibly pushed there by riot police.
A group from the Courtauld Institute of Art was among those pushed back into the area. The students had been guided by one of their lecturers, Professor Joanna Woodall, into a plaza on Whitehall in order to avoid the volatile atmosphere of Parliament Square. However, they were all pushed back by police, while Professor Woodall was picked up by an officer and thrown back into a crowd of protesters.
"We deliberately moved the students to the area and asked them to line up against a wall to keep them out of the way," she said. "But the police pushed us back. It is the criminalisation of everyone that is so worrying. I would say 98 per cent of the people inside that kettle last week were peaceful."
Daisy Jones, 25, president of the institute's student union, described how their group was crushed as police horses drove them back towards Parliament Square. She also said some other students from the institute faced "horrendous conditions", with one suffering a panic attack after being kettled on Westminster Bridge until 11.30pm. Another student was struck by a riot officer's shield.
"We are not a militant university by any means, but we care about the decision to cut higher education spending," she said. "I worked hard to encourage people to come out on this demonstration. Peaceful people will surely be reluctant to participate again.
"I can't help thinking that seems to be the tactic being used by police – using this approach to discourage the many peaceful people who do not usually go on protests from attending."
Successive MPs complained about heavy-handed police tactics – in particular the use of kettling – as Theresa May, the Home Secretary, made a Commons statement yesterday on the violence in London's streets.
The former Labour minister Malcolm Wicks said: "This is becoming more and more common, including the kettling of children. Isn't this a form of open-air imprisonment which has nothing to do with policing in this country?"
David Lammy, another former minister, challenged Ms May over minors getting caught up in the kettle, and said complaints over the tactic had been passed to the IPCC. Kerry McCarthy said students from her Labour constituency of Bristol East had shown her evidence that police had "overstepped the mark".
Ms May insisted that protesters caught up in kettles had been able to leave – a claim disputed by many MPs. She said kettling had been appropriate.
Gloomy footage of a dark moment for British policing
Filmed in the shadows of the Westminster streets as twilight gave way to darkness last Thursday, the footage is at times hard to make out. But the sight of a young man being dragged along the street by police is clear for all to see – as it is in another photograph showing officers tackling Jody McIntyre earlier the same day.
Having uttered the ominous words "We are in a bad place", the amateur cameraman and his friends spot Mr McIntyre across the road from them. "The guy in the wheelchair gave us a talk at the occupation," says one on the footage, before noting their admiration for him as "cool" and a "hard nut".
Though it is almost too dark to see Mr McIntyre being hauled from his wheelchair just seconds later, sudden and repeated shouts of "What the fuck are you doing?" make it obvious what it going on. Moments later, Mr McIntyre can be seen lying in the road as a policeman drags him towards the kerb and the camera.
"You just tipped him over," cries a voice, as another officer prevents fellow protesters from intervening. Bellows of "Scum!" ring out, and the video eventually cuts off just after a policeman is pulled away from the ensuing mêlée by fellow officers. Rob Hastings