TUC condemns post-rally violence in central London

London Polizei-Einsatz
London Polizei-Einsatz

Protesters in Trafalgar SquarePeople gathered in Trafalgar Square in central London during the evening

Late night violence which followed a day of anti-spending cuts protests in London has been condemned by the TUC.

Hours after more than 250,000 people took part in a peaceful march to Hyde Park, there were clashes between police and protesters in Trafalgar Square.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the activities of a few hundred people should not detract from the main message of the official protest.

Police said a total of 214 arrests had been made during the day.

‘Clock attack’

The arrests were largely for a variety of public order offences they said. In addition, 66 people were reported to have been injured, including at least 31 police officers, 11 of whom required hospital treatment. The injuries were described as relatively minor.

Commander Bob Broadhurst, who was in charge of the Metropolitan Police operation, said his officers had to deal with “mindless yobs” in and around Trafalgar Square in central London.

“We’ve had a number of – I hesitate to call them protesters – a bunch of people that ended up in Trafalgar Square,” he said.

“All was peaceful for quite a long while but then for some reason one of them made an attack on the Olympic [countdown] clock, we moved in to make an arrest, the next minute they’re attacking us and they’re trying to attack and damage the Olympic clock in Trafalgar Square.”

Commander Broadhurst said a group of about 100-150 people had run off, ripping open litter bins and throwing bottles and bricks at police.

Restore order

He added: “This is just mindless vandalism, hooliganism, it’s nothing to do with protest.”

The trouble began after demonstrators broke away from the main march and headed towards the shopping district in London’s West End.

A group of about 500 people gathered in Oxford Street, before targeting fashion chain Topshop’s flagship store and the banks Santander, HSBC and RBS.

Anti-cuts group UK Uncut occupied luxury grocery store Fortnum and Mason in Picadilly in protest over alleged tax avoidance by the business’s owners.

Later in the evening, the protests moved to Trafalgar Square where police kettled demonstrators while they tried to restore order.

One of the people caught up in the trouble in Trafalgar Square, named Sophie, gave an account of events.

‘Kicked off’

She said: “All of a sudden about 10-20 Met police came storming down the steps of the National Gallery, ran straight to the Olympic clock.

“I have never seen such a fast escalation of violence in my life. Everything just kicked off, glass everywhere, police hitting people, people being dragged across the floor. I just can’t believe it.”

After a few hours of containment by police, during which people in the square were allowed to leave only in small groups via its north-eastern corner, there were just a few protesters remaining. BBC Radio Five Live’s Dotun Adebayo reported that the square was completely calm after 0200 BST.

Labour leader Ed Miliband, who spoke at the earlier rally, said there was “no excuse” for the violent scenes.

“I unequivocally condemn those who have committed acts of violence,” he said.

Policing minister Nick Herbert said “a small minority of individuals were intent on disorder”.

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