Police charged unarmed, peaceful protesters on horseback and used “heavy-handed” tactics to disrupt protests on Oxford Road last week.
Students returned from the town hall march and gathered near University Place. All surrounding University buildings were pad-locked and guarded by police in a bid to deter students from occupation. The surrounding buildings had been evacuated in preparation for the returning march.
After an attempted occupation of the Dover Street building, protesters staged a non-violent disruption of traffic on Oxford Road, outside the Manchester Museum. A large group sat in the road and were surrounded by police. The police then physically removed protesters and used horses to clear the road.
University of Manchester Students’ Union Women’s Officer, Emma Kerry, talked to the police before they removed the protesters. She said: “I completely disagree with police horses being used. It is quite cruel to the animals and it is intimidating to the protesters. The police informed us that they were going to tell the students when they were going to move in and give the students a chance to move.
“They then went in very heavy-handed and didn’t give students the opportunity to move. I believe students, who were not violent and simply worried about their education, have been caught up in, basically, police attacking students who were sitting in on a peaceful protest. All they were doing was stopping the traffic. They were not causing any damage to buildings or people. The only violence here, that I have seen, has been antagonised by the police,” added Kerry.
A local college tutor, who wished to remain anonymous, witnessed the events: “Police started coming in and picking people up. It got a bit rough. People started kicking off about it. A couple of people were arrested. It was a peaceful protest, and they started pushing everyone back and roughing everyone up. [The police] turned something peaceful into something that could become potentially violent.”
A 16-year-old student was hit in the face by a police officer while standing at the side of the road near the protest: “[A policeman] was pushing me back and, even though I was wearing glasses, he grabbed my face and pushed it,” said Kwame Menfah, a college student.
The crowds on Oxford Road included many young people, some as young as 11: “We want to go to university too. We’re protesting for the future; for us,” said Pablo Fernandez, an 11-year-old Trinity Church of England High School student.
After the students were dispersed from outside the Manchester Museum, they continued to march down the road, blocking traffic. Police followed, physically moving protesters on if they slowed down.
Jeremy Buck, UMSU Communications Officer, said: “The UMSU organised the part of the demonstration that ended in Castlefield. Students here chose to spend the rest of their afternoon marching from place to place in Manchester. The events that unfolded here just goes to show how active the students want to be. They are really passionate about it. “
Once the protesters reached Whitworth Park, they turned to face the police. Police officers marched towards them, and the students linked arms. Horse-mounted police officers charged the protesters at speed and hit the linked students. It is not known if anyone was injured.
Again, police physically removed protesters and made several arrests.
Lucy Allan, a University of Manchester student, witnessed her boyfriend, Joey Connolly-Wright, being beaten and arrested. She said: “He literally didn’t do anything. He’s really non-violent. We were barely even part of this protest.
“He was just standing there, and they kicked him in the balls and punched him against the railing. He wasn’t doing anything. They screamed at me and pushed me away.
‘They have taken him to the station. I have no idea why he was arrested. They said it was for obstruction of the highway, but we were on the pavement – and they kicked him. What the fuck?” said Allan.
The police officer told the protesters: “If you walk back onto the road, you are causing an obstruction of the highway. We will have no choice but to arrest you. You can protest wherever you like, but we need to keep the highway open.”
After approximately 20 minutes, the crowd then marched back up Oxford Road, past the UMSU and blocking traffic as they went. As they reached the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), several more arrests were made and the protest seemed to, after six and a half hours, come to an end.
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