Warwick Students Pepper Sprayed by Police

Warwick students holding a peaceful protest against tuition fees were last night broken up by police, with confirmed reports of the use of pepper spray and tazers by police.

West Midland Police confirmed via a tweet that a taser was drawn:

Videos show the clash, which was, again, in response to a non-violent sit in at Senate House at the University of Warwick:

Pictures emerged last night showing students immediately after they had been pepper sprayed. West Midland Police confirmed this morning that pepper spray was used against students at the protest.

The police say they have arrested three students, one on suspicion of assaulting a security guard and two others for obstructing police.

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."

Update

Warwick Students' Union "absolutely condemns the disproportionate use of force by Police on protestors". They've released a statement following yesterday's events, and "stand in solidarity with students who were unnecessarily harmed in this action".

They have also confirmed that "a further demonstration is planned outside Senate House at 3:30pm today, at which Sabbatical Officers will be in attendance. This is intended as a peaceful rally to protest against last night’s actions."

Warwick Vice Chancellor puts out statement to all staff and students

"Dear Students and Staff of the University

The events from Wednesday of last week, and broadcast so publicly in the media, have been very difficult for our community. We have witnessed scenes and actions that no one will have wanted to see on our campus. For some it will be hard to understand how this happened or was allowed to happen. For those students involved in the protest, or staff who were working adjacent to it, the events will no doubt have been frightening.

Warwick has a long history of facilitating peaceful protest on the campus where close co-operation between those protesting and University colleagues enables us to ensure that views are aired, arguments are made, but also ensure that the day to day experience of those on the campus is able to continue. Our commitment to continue to facilitate peaceful demonstrations and protests in the future remains.

Everyone expected the planned protests for last week to be peaceful and arrangements were put in place on that basis. I have no doubt that the vast majority of individuals involved planned to conduct themselves peacefully and went on to do so. It is clear, however, that a very small number of individuals were willing to use non-peaceful means as part of these protests, some of whom were not Warwick students. Where this led to a person allegedly being assaulted in the course of fulfilling their duties, the University had no choice but to act. We have had it confirmed that the individual who is alleged to have conducted this assault is not a member of the University of Warwick community. Where an alleged crime takes place on the campus it is important that it is investigated immediately or the ability to identify those involved and either clear their name or take appropriate action is seriously hindered. This is particularly the case when the allegation is against someone who is not a member of the Warwick community where we would have no jurisdiction to investigate or act ourselves.

There are some that believe that the allegation of assault is without basis. I can confirm that the allegation is indeed real and based on a genuine complaint regarding someone who was injured in the conduct of their duties. The external legal process will determine in due course whether the evidence is sufficient for further action to be taken.

Fortunately, acts of intimidation, violence or criminal damage are rare at Warwick. A number of alleged such incidents happened last week.

On the first attempt to enter the top floor of the Rootes Social Building on Tuesday evening a male and a female member of CCSG staff, who were packing up after a student event, allegedly found themselves confronted by 20-25 individuals, with faces masked, in a darkened room, who refused to speak and identify why they were there and were actively locking and barricading themselves in.

At the end of an otherwise peaceful protest on Thursday, approximately £6000 worth of criminal damage was caused by a very small number of masked protesters as they broke into the locked doors at the back of Senate House.

Finally, a group of individuals seeking entry to the floor where the occupation in Rootes Social Building was taking place on Thursday evening allegedly pushed into a member of Warwick Conferences staff with such force it resulted in an injury.

Referring to these incidents at this point is not to question the peaceful values of the majority of those involved. It is to state clearly that there were a small number of people involved who did not pursue protest through peaceful means. These will be investigated thoroughly. Similarly, if any students engaged in the protest have evidence of staff acting inappropriately these will also be investigated thoroughly.

The peaceful intentions of the majority of members of the Warwick community engaging in last week’s protests have been affected by the actions of small number of individuals, including some who were external to the University. Where acts of intimidation, violence or criminal damage do occur we will, indeed we must, act. There is no place for either of these things on our campus or in our community. They have no role to play in the conduct of peaceful protest and are in no way a necessary aspect of such protests. In due course, and when it is legally permissible to do so, we will disclose the information and evidence that we have regarding the alleged assault and the criminal damage to the rear of Senate House.

At no point did the University call the Police to campus because of the protest or to support us in the management of the arrangements for the protest. It was linked solely to an allegation of assault. The Police indicated on arrival that if we were able to identify the individual they would have taken his details and left the matter at that. We were not able to secure that information. In their view they were left no choice but to attend the building in person. They had received a report that an alleged assault had been committed and the individual alleged to have committed the assault was still in the building.

I was not present in the immediate vicinity of these incidents and neither were the vast majority of people who have commented on them. I welcome the commitment on the part of the Coventry Police Commander that if any individual involved in the incident believes that the actions of any of the officers fell below the standard of acceptable professional conduct that such matters will be investigated fully. The Registrar has also asked an independent member of our University Council to review the outcomes of any specific complaints that are raised by students or staff regarding the actions of members of the University in these events.

Where unlawful occupations take place we will assess their impact on the overall operation of the University and the impact on its community and act in a measured way. We demonstrated this in our response to the protestors who engaged in an unlawful occupation on Thursday night and remain in occupation on the top floor of the Rootes Social Building. Where that disruption becomes significant and prolonged, or where any unlawful acts have taken place such as criminal damage, physical or aggressive abuse towards individuals we will pursue normal legal process to remove the protesters and return the facilities that they have occupied to normal usage.

Let me end where I began. I know many student and staff members of our community have been distressed by the events of the past week and it is important that we all take the time to fully understand the facts before we draw conclusions on the actions that have been taken. I do recognise however that the visible scenes witnessed last week will have been distressing for those who watched them and even more so for those involved. Details of the support structures within the University are provided below and anyone from within the University affected by the events of last week is encouraged to make contact with them.

The relationship between members of the University community and the Police has been overwhelmingly positive with them helping us to reduce all types of crime on the campus, particularly the theft of personal property. Recent events will have raised questions in the minds of some individuals on this relationship in the future and I hope that the outcome of any reviews of this incident will help ensure that this relationship remains positive and constructive.

Warwick is place where challenging ideas are nurtured and where rigorous intellectual debate is an integral part of life. There are multiple formal and informal fora and bodies across the University through which students and staff views can be voiced. Where individuals want to raise those views through demonstrations and protests, and to do so on a peaceful basis, we will continue to facilitate that in the future as we have in the past. We cannot, indeed we must not, accept situations where this translates into acts of intimidation, criminal damage or violence. To do so will erode the fundamental safety and security of the environment in which any challenging ideas can be developed, discussed and communicated.

Professor Nigel Thrift

Vice-Chancellor

SUPPORT FOR THOSE AFFECTED BY EVENTS OF LAST WEEK

Students and staff are encouraged to contact:

Student Support (including the University Counselling Service)

Email: studentsupport@warwick.ac.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 2476 575570

Web: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/student-support-services"


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