The retrial of student protesters Alfie Meadows and Zac King is underway at Woolwich Crown Court. They stand accused of violent disorder during a student protest on 9 December 2010.
Michael Mansfield QC cross-examined Michael Johnson, who was police silver commander on the day. Johnson made high level tactical decisions—including when to use horses against a tightly packed crowd of thousands of young people.
He was shown footage of the demonstration. Hundreds of thousands of students had converged on Parliament Square to protest against the voting through of £9,000 a year tuition fees.
Mansfield argued that the protest was peaceful and good natured until the police began containing the crowd and pushing protesters back.
He asked whether “an operation of pushing people [between] vans and onto the pavements with riot police and horses—it was dangerous in itself?”
Johnson replied that there is “always danger when police come into contact with the public” and said that there was “plenty of room for people”.
But the footage shown to the jury showed crowds of people crushed up against police lines. There were gasps from the public gallery as the jury was shown film of police using batons and shields against the protesters.
The court heard how police commanders received a report that night of a protester being hit on the head with a police baton and that their condition was “life threatening/changing” and that they “might die”. That protester was Alfie Meadows.
The jury were also shown footage of around 3,000 protesters kettled on Westminster Bridge. Mansfield asked Johnson, “Were you aware that people on the bridge were in distress?”
Johnson replied, “People were causing themselves to be distressed by pushing and shoving against police officers.” He went on to say that it was “not the fault of police officers”. The court heard how there were reports of people fainting on the bridge.
The retrial continues.