Video: Students 'punched and dragged to the ground by their hair' as police break up demonstration

Warning, strong language: Five arrested as occupation at the University of London headquarters ends in violence

Tom Mendelsohn
Thursday 05 December 2013 13:17
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Police clash with students in London at the gates of Senate House
Police clash with students in London at the gates of Senate House

The Metropolitan Police have been accused of “brutality” by students after more than 100 officers stormed a protest at the university of London.

Five people were arrested yesterday evening, with three still in police custody, amidst chaotic scenes at UoL’s headquarters in central London yesterday evening.

Around 100 students had occupied rooms in Senate House earlier that afternoon, in protest against moves which university authorities are making to close the University of London Union (ULU). Students say the protest was peaceful.

Police forced entrance at around 7:30. One participant, who preferred not to be named, said she saw punches thrown by both police and Senate House security, and saw occupiers being dragged out of the rooms.

“It was worse when we got outside, when it descended into more violence,” she said.

“As protesters surged forwards against the gates of the building many people were crushed and hit as police lashed out, punching students and pulling their hair and clothes.”

When police vans tried to leave with an arrested activist inside, protesters blocked Mallet Street, pushing over rubbish bins and standing in the road. Two students were arrested in the fighting that followed, while it is claimed that several were injured.

ULU’s president Michael Chessum described the break-up of the occupation on Twitter as “one of the nastiest, most brutal I’ve seen on campus in a long time”.

Another student, who left before the eviction, concurred, claiming that “the University of London collaborated with the police to remove us brutally from the occupation”.

A statement from ULU said: "We are still investigating what happened but initial reports indicate protesters were assaulted by both police and security, thrown to the ground, kicked and punched, and dragged to the ground by their hair. When supporters gathered outside to show support for the occupation, they were beaten back and assaulted.

"Occupations are a legitimate form of dissent. When our university shuts down our student union, and are utterly unaccountable to the students and staff that give it life and make it function, students have no choice but to gain leverage in whatever way they can."

Police clash with students in London at the gates of Senate House

Referring to the occupation, Chris Cobb, the chief operating officer of the University of London said: “This was a disgraceful and aggressive act, which placed the safety of our staff at risk. The university will always support peaceful and legitimate protest, but invading our working environment and blocking fire escapes is potentially life threatening and plays no part in democratic dissent. The university will never under any circumstances enter into a dialogue with any group or group of individuals who adopt this approach.”

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police confirmed that five people were arrested at a protest at Senate House. One was arrested for assault on police, one for obstructing the highway and police, and three more for causing danger to users of the highway.

In reference to the allegations of violence, and to the footage, he said that the police had “not received any complaints with regards to police action”.

“Anyone with concerns about officers’ actions should call 101 and report them.”

The video was shot by Dulcie Lee on Wednesday evening

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