Posted Under: Criminal Justice,Education,London,Police,Protest
A doctor who gave medical assistance to protesters on 9th Dec has spoken of the police risking a ‘Hillsborough-type’ disaster on Westminster Bridge:
The anaesthetist from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, who gave medical assistance to the protesters, said that officers forced demonstrators into such a tight “kettle” on Westminster Bridge that they were in danger of being seriously crushed or pushed into the freezing River Thames.
The 34-year-old doctor, who set up a field hospital in Parliament Square, said that people on the bridge suffered respiratory problems, chest pains and the symptoms of severe crushing.
“Police had us so closely packed, I couldn’t move my feet or hands an inch. We were in that situation like that for hours. People in the middle were having real difficulty breathing.
The Aberdeen doctor added: “The sides of the bridge were only waist high and all it would have taken is one stumble and someone could have gone over the side. I’m surprised that no one died there. And if anyone had been injured, I would have struggled to respond even if I was stood next to them.” She said that when several police became caught inside the kettle they were screaming to get out. “They were experiencing what we were experiencing.”
(She also stated that the ‘vast majority’ of injuries she saw that day were head wounds: “I was surprised how much force the police had used.” Read the whole thing here: http://bit.ly/i4O6V0.)
Hillsborough didn’t occur to me when we stopped moving across the bridge. As we all struggled to find the space to breath and the people got restless, I couldn’t help thinking of the stampede that happened on a bridge in Cambodia several weeks before. (456 dead). It only takes a few to panic and start pushing for people to get trampled.
The police know this. They remember Hillsborough, and know full well the dangers of a crush in such circumstances. Either the police knowingly risked the lives of protesters that day, or they were making it up as they went along. (As they were marching us onto the bridge, I couldn’t shake the feeling that, for all their scary frowning, the police were just as clueless as to the outcome of this as we were.)
Responding to the allegations that police took unnecessary risks that day, a spokesman for Scotland Yard insisted that kettling was used to control only violent sections of the crowd, while minimising the use of force. I can only assume that in the world of law enforcement, ‘sections of the crowd’ means ‘the whole fucking crowd’, while the word ‘force’ doesn’t cover imprisoning a group of people in a wall of batons and riot shields for three hours with no possibility of escape.
But this makes sense in a world in which government ministers can claim with straight faces that their decision to raise tuition fees in no way compromises their pledge not to increase tuition fees; in which the woman shagging the heir to the throne being poked with a stick becomes the very definition of inexcusable violence, while a 20 year old being hit so hard with a baton he needs emergency brain surgery is just good policing in difficult circumstances.
Very often the abuse of language and common sense in this manner by those in power is committed knowingly. But this is much worse: I have a strong suspicion that the police haven’t got a fucking clue what they’re doing. Be afraid.