A policeman confronts a student at the sit-in. Photo: WFEE.
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Video: Police appear to assault students at peaceful protest

A small "free education" sit-in was disrupted this afternoon by police, who used force to disperse the group and arrested three students. 

Police appear to have tasered, CS-sprayed and assaulted students taking part in a “free education” protest at Warwick University.

Here is the video of the incident, courtesy of LiveLeak, which shows students being thrown to the ground, put in headlocks and sprayed by the police. They are accompanied by multiple security guards. 

A second video, which has since been made private, captured the incident from the other side of the room and shows a series of students being dragged from the foyer. This shorter video was also captured.

The students were meeting as part of the “Warwick for Free Education” group. Pictures of the meeting before the violence appear to show a small, peaceful, sit-in, of around two dozen students sitting in a circle.

The West Midlands police have published a statement absolving themselves of wrongdoing. They offered no reply to questions of their conduct and, despite having a pre-prepared statement, claimed to have not seen the video.

Three students have been arrested – one on suspicion of assault and two for obstructing the police.

Here is their statement in full:

Police were called to reports of an assault at the University of Warwick Central Campus in Coventry this afternoon.

Officers arrived at Senate House at 4.50pm to find a group of around 25 students protesting about fees and a staff member reported that he had been assaulted by one of the group.

Three people were arrested from the site, one on suspicion of assault and two others on suspicion of obstructing police.

Police officers and security staff from the university worked together to ensure everyone was safe. The protest continues and officers remain at the scene to ensure there is no further breach of the peace.

Callum Cant, an undergraduate at the university who was present throughout, told the New Statesman that the reports of a student assault on a member of staff are "based on the university calling them and saying it happened, I saw absolutely nothing". The police would not describe the nature of the assault, but it seems that one of the security guards was the supposed victim. 

Craig McVey, a PhD student who was also present, told the Coventry Telegraph:

“A police officer took out his CS spray and sprayed it in one person’s eyes and then into a crowd of about ten people. A taser was taken out and was being made to crackle by pressing the trigger, but it wasn’t used.”

Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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