http://www.inthenews.co.uk/news/autocod ... 258707.htm
Gaza demo police 'risked another Hillsborough'
Tuesday, 06 Jan 2009 07:59
Demonstrators say police risked 'another Hillsborough' during Palestinian solidarity protests in London
Anger over the policing of last Saturday's Palestinian solidarity demonstration in London continued today, with activists saying the police were "asking for another Hillsborough disaster".
The weekend march – part of a coordinated international protest – drew large crowds, although police and organisers disagreed on the exact number.
Problems occurred when a section of the protest split from the main group to demonstrate outside the Israeli embassy in Kensington.
Accounts differ, but somehow thousands of demonstrators found themselves in an underground tunnel by Hyde Park Corner being baton-charged by police.
"It was like the scene from [a] battle," Respect MP George Galloway told politics.co.uk.
"There were scores of people on the ground, mainly women and children. They were screaming and crying. On the second charge I myself was knocked over.
"I was surrounded by women and children begging me to ask police to stop," he continued.
"I took my gloves off and walked forward with my hands up. I made for the oldest policeman, assuming he was more senior. But before I could say a single word he slammed my in the chest with his shield and held up his baton as if to hit me with it."
There is a strong disagreement between police and activists about who made the first move.
The official statement from the Metropolitan police said: "As police were attempting to facilitate people through in a controlled manner a small number of people attempted to push through police lines, threw missiles at officers and attempted to drag officers into the crowd of demonstrators."
It continued: "A number of stewards and other protestors attempted to calm the situation. Officers made one 10m advance into the crowd to regain control of the protest, using recognised and proportionate tactics."
Mr Galloway admitted there was some provocation from demonstrators but questioned the proportionality of the police response.
"There were youths wearing masks and they were throwing placards, which are bad if they get you in the eye but not exactly molotov cocktails, and police of course were wearing armour and so on."
John Rees, co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition and a steward on the march agreed.
"I was in the tunnel as well," he told politics.co.uk.
"It was one of the most dangerous pieces of policing I've ever seen. The police decision to charge the demonstrators three times wielding batons was bad enough, but to do it in a tunnel where thousands of people had to run backwards towards another crowd of people was asking for another Hillsborough disaster to take place.
"We were lucky there were so few injuries."
The coalition met with police yesterday to go over routes for next Saturday's march, which will meet at Speaker's Corner and proceed to the Israeli embassy.
Organisers used the opportunity to raise concerns about last Saturday's protest. When politics.co.uk asked Mr Rees what he expected to get out of the complaint, he replied: "Frankly not a lot, but if you don't raise it you don't get anywhere.
"The aim is to convince police they shouldn't be deploying riot police against anti-war demonstrations and that whatever police are deployed they don't behave like they did on Saturday."
Israeli's military action in Gaza Strip is entering its 11th day today, with Israeli troops deep in the Gaza Strip and no obvious end in sight.