A member of the PCS civil service workers’ union national executive has severely criticised the police’s actions on yesterday’s student demonstration in London. Zita Holbourne, who is also join chair of the Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts group, condemned the treatment of young people and other protesters while speaking to Socialist Worker today.
Zita said, “I went to Whitehall in the evening to join the protest. I was supposed to be speaking at the rally outside Downing Street but that had been cancelled as the police had formed lines. There were around 200 people on the Downing Street side of the police lines. They were students, workers and tourists.
“The police started coming forward, forcing us further back up Whitehall. Then suddenly mounted police on horses charged at us for no reason. There was complete panic as people tried to get out of the way, and people were pushed and knocked. My cousin dragged me onto the pavement as the horses went through the crowd, with the hooves inches from me.
“A police line formed up to stop the people who’d ran up Whitehall from coming back. A police officer pushed me.
“Mounted police horse came up onto the pavement towards us—there were only a handful of us left now. Another police officer laid his hands on me. We stood our ground against them.
“Later when we went down to the river we observed a young boy of 14 or 15 being held by the police. He was handcuffed to a policewoman and held by a policeman. They then stuck him in a van by himself. He was being treated like a terrible criminal. There was no need for that kind of force.
“My cousin—a grown woman—was terrified by what she saw. Who knows what the school children in central London were going through—especially after the police kettled them for hours.
“The things the police were doing was outrageous and I will be making a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
“This is all part of the general attack by the Tories. It was intimidating. They and the media are demonising our young people. All they are doing is fighting for their future and the right to have education.
“The events of yesterday reminded me of a student protest in 1985, when we had a sit-in on Westminster Bridge by parliament. The police charged us then too, but at least they gave us two minutes notice.”