Police cavalry charges students in London

Barack Obama will no doubt issue a statement of solidarity soon. (via Lenin’s Tomb) According to Chris Greenwood of the Press Association, the police has made 20 arrests and 43 protesters have been treated at hospital for injuries. Twelve police officers were also injured.

Guardian reports:

At 5.40pm news of the MPs’ historic decision reached the crowds gathered in Whitehall to cries of “Shame!”

Within an hour, the scuffles at police lines that had been erupting all afternoon escalated into more violent confrontations, windows were broken at several buildings including the Treasury and supreme court and in Trafalgar Square

A car carrying Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall was attacked in Argyll Street as they headed for the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium, with a window of the vehicle being cracked in the violence. Paint was also thrown and splattered the car. […]

At least 38 protesters and 10 officers were injured. Six officers required hospital treatment and four suffered minor injuries, Scotland Yard confirmed. Fifteen people were arrested: eight for violent disorder, two for arson, two for assault on police, one for criminal damage, one for being drunk and disorderly and one for theft.

Outside the Treasury, officers in riot gear formed a shield around the door which demonstrators had been trying to force open with a metal barrier. Protesters beat drums and sang chants at the officers after being held back from the government building. Hundreds tried to get out of the square but were contained by police at all exits.

Many hundreds of police wearing riot helmets and carrying batons and shields stood shoulder to shoulder, lining the square and the roads leading from it. For much of the afternoon protesters had been kettled inside the square, unable to leave and sporadically pushed back by a phalanx of officers on foot and horseback, marring a gathering that for the most part had been peaceful and almost festive.

One of the protest groups involved claimed 30,000 had attended the march, although for much of the afternoon the number appeared to be significantly lower. At one point a group of protesters found themselves tightly squeezed between two lines of advancing police, causing anger and some panic. One person was seen being carried away, apparently unconscious.

“Police resorted to kettling tactics and horse-charged once again, and thousands of students, including young teenagers, are still being detained,” said a spokesman for the Coalition of Resistance. “All appeals from the organisers of the demonstration not to use these tactics were ignored.”

One man was pulled twice from his wheelchair by police officers for being too close to their lines. Finlay McIntyre told the Guardian that his brother Jody was at one point pulled from his chair and dragged bodily across the ground by officers when they were deemed to be too close to police horses.

Shiv Malik, a freelance journalist, was treated in hospital for a head wound after he was hit by a police baton during a charge. He said two officers, including a police medic, had refused to help him and he was sent across the square to find another exit, from where he was able to make his way to a hospital casualty department.

The atmosphere for much of the afternoon had been relaxed and almost cheerful as many among the crowd repeated chants, danced to portable sound systems or huddled around small fires made from burning placards.

The first outbreak of violence began at around 3.30pm when a group of around 20 protesters, all clad in black with black balaclavas covering their faces, charged the police lines with a pre-prepared metal battering ram. The core group of protesters broke through the police lines, triggering ugly scenes as protesters and police fought in small isolated groups.

After police reclaimed their line across the street leading from the square, some protesters continued to clash with officers, hurling sticks and paint, while police responding by lashing out with batons, and charging at speed on horseback.

Earlier, in the opposite corner of the square a group of schoolboys, still in uniform after walking out of classes in the morning, hurled sticks, eggs and firecrackers at police, while starting a small fire using toilet roll, placards and a GCSE mock economics exam.

Thomas Shephard, an MA student who had come from Liverpool and whose friend carried a placard reading “Cameron you are a douche”, said the flashpoints at the cordons were “really horrible and irresponsible” and dismissed the small number of troublemakers as “idiots”.

He added: “We’ve had protests in the past with large numbers of people and that has just been ignored.

“Disruption like this sends a message, even if I don’t agree with people who are throwing stuff. I also wholly disagree with police being really harsh with reasonable people like the rest of us.”

Sly Gullick and Oscar Lyons, 16, year 11 students from Stratford in east London, had brought a pack of cards and were playing a few hands with friends.

Gullick said: “I want to go to university and I’m not sure that I will ever be able to afford it if these cuts go through.”

Some made impassioned philosophical arguments for the importance of universal education, while others carried good-humoured placards reading “Don’t be a dick” or “Down with this kind of thing”.

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