On 9 December 2010, I attended a student demonstration against education cuts and tuition fee rises, the fourth demonstration of its kind in as many weeks. And in a slight twist to normal events, I was removed from my wheelchair by police officers, against my will, not once, but twice. So much for freedom of movement.
The first incident was completely unacceptable. A number of officers lifted me out of my wheelchair and carried me halfway down the road, minutes after I had been batoned on the shoulder by one of their colleagues. But the second incident had even more of a sinister edge. This time, I was sitting on the Millbank approach to Parliament Square, with my younger brother standing behind me. I spotted one of the officers from the previous incident out of the corner of my eye, standing a significant distance away on the side of the road. He immediately recognised me. Running towards me, he proceeded to tip me out of my wheelchair, and then dragged me across the road by my arms. This is more commonly referred to by the Metropolitan Police as "engaging with all sections of the community".
The public reacted in shock, a few parties - the Daily Mail, for example - not so much at the actions of the police, but more that a wheelchair user had dared to attend a demonstration in the first place. And their shock surprised me. Surely we should be far more outraged at the case of Alfie Meadows, a 20-year-old student who was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery, suffering from internal bleeding on the brain after being struck on the head with a police truncheon?
Moreover, it is the stories that the public will never hear about that should cause most outrage. The girls who were kicked by policemen as they lay on the floor, the 14- and 15-year-old students who were kept out in the cold for hours on end without food, water or toilets, thanks to the whims and fancies of the officers in charge - we will never learn their names, but they suffered much more than I did.
I've been to many protests before, and I have seen what the police do. To me, their role at demonstrations is, and always has been, to incite, provoke and initiate violence. Consider this case - on 30 November, during the third student demonstration, police officers tried but failed to kettle protesters. The result was thousands of students spontaneously marching around central London, from Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Street to Trafalgar Square, without permission, and without an ounce of violence. This was a failure for the police and the government, because it garnered crucial public support for our struggle. The police need violence at protests in order for the government to portray us as thugs, criminals, animals - but never as people resisting against their policies in the fight for a better future.
It was not the first time the police had used such tactics: the police brutality I witnessed at the G20 demonstrations in 2009, which culminated in the death of Ian Tomlinson, will stay with me for a long time. But, for many of the young demonstrators out on the streets on 9 December, it was the first time they had been to a protest. I'm sure they did not expect to be beaten, dragged, humiliated, provoked and attacked by policemen.
At future demonstrations, it may be not only the future of education that students fear for, but also their own safety.
Read Jody McIntyre's blog, Life on Wheels, at: jodymcintyre.wordpress.com