4 Dec 2014

Police use CS spray and Taser at Warwick University protest

Students at Warwick University are protesting after video shows police drawing a Taser and using CS spray at a protest for free education.

The protest on Wednesday was part of a nationwide day of action calling on the government to scrap tuition fees. The protest group, Warwick For Free Education, said it staged a peaceful sit-in in the Senate House building on campus.

Police said that they had been called to the university after a member of staff said they had been assaulted. A video filmed by one of the students shows police using CS spray and drawing a Taser.

A 24-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assault to a security guard, and two others, aged 19 and 24, were also arrested for obstructing police.

Hundreds of students gathered again on Thursday to demonstrate against the police intervention.

‘Audible warning’

In a statement, West Midlands Police said: “During the incident a Taser was drawn as a visible and audible warning to prevent a further disorder. The Taser was not pointed at anyone and was not fired.

“CS Spray was also used by police during the protest when a group advanced on officers.”

Lawrence Green, a 24-year-old History MA student at Warwick University says he was sprayed with CS spray by police. He told Channel 4 News: “One of my friends was dragged across the room by the scarf around her neck. I asked them not to do that, then police said “Get back! Get back, or I’ll use CS spray!” Then they sprayed it in my eye.

“There wasn’t much time or space for me to move really. Within seconds of the CS spray being pointed at me it was being sprayed in my face.”

Mr Green said that he had been to hospital last night. “I’ve spent most of the morning resting. When I woke up I could barely see,” he said.

“I’m going to see the doctor again soon. There’s a lot of pain in my left eye.”

‘No alternative’

Nigel Thrift, the Vice-Chancellor of Warwick University, confirmed that the University had called the police.

“I was disheartened that yesterday’s protest uncharacteristically saw an unprovoked assault on one of our security team that gave us no alternative but to ask the police to attend the scene to investigate that alleged assault,” he said in a statement.

Professor Thrift said that security “endeavoured to get the individual alleged to have made the assault to fully identify himself before the police engaged directly with the protestors.”

“Sadly that individual, and others present, would not co-operate with this request and the police were obliged to intervene directly,” he said.

“I, like many others, have been saddened by the images of what then occurred which saw police and students having to engage in and resolve an unnecessarily challenging situation which led on from the actions of one individual.”

A group of police just attacked people for about 10 minutes. Callum Cant, English Literature student at Warwick University

Callum Cant, a 20-year-old English Literature student at Warwick University denied that any assault from any student took place. He told Channel 4 News: “It’s utterly unbelievable to suggest that, it just wouldn’t fit with how the day panned out.

“It wasn’t really an occupation because we weren’t blocking anything. We spent 20 or 30 minutes talking with security. Then police cars turned up and security told us they were for us.”

Coventry Police Commander, Chief Superintendent Claire Bell, said: “Police officers are highly trained in dealing with all public order situations and using appropriate levels of force.

“We are aware of videos of the protest being circulated on social media sites. We expect the highest standards from all officers, and if any officer is found to have fallen below these standards, they will be thoroughly investigated.”

Further protests

Elsewhere in the UK, students are occupying Universities in Sheffield, Manchester, Sussex, London and Lancaster.

Students at Warwick University are planning another protest later today in response to the incident.

“There’s more security than usual around the place. It’s a heavy presence,” said Mr Cant.