The Tory press carried a story yesterday about ‘angry protesters’ ‘storming’ Jacob Rees-Mogg’s fringe event at the Tory conference in Manchester. That description was shown to be nonsense by footage – also shown on today’s BBC Daily Politics programme – of Rees-Mogg and protester Shabbir Lakha in a calm if animated discussion of Rees-Mogg’s politics at the event:
But the real situation at the fringe event was allegedly far more than simply protesters not ‘storming’ anything. The People’s Assembly activists allege that they – including a disabled man – were seriously assaulted by conference-goers and security staff.
Alex Knox, a protester from Hackney, told this blog:
I was at the front sitting down. When JRM was up at the table, I got a ‘Tories Out’ banner out and lifted it above my head. After about 4 minutes Jacob Rees-Mogg came up to me. There were lots of objections from Tories about the banner but they had banners, why shouldn’t I express my view in a public meeting?
They gathered round me, pushing me, and injured my leg. I told them I was prepared to leave but security guards came and dragged me out.
I told them I was disabled and they must have been able to see my leg brace, but they continued bundling and pushing me down the stairs. Told them I was in pain, that they were assaulting me but they continued.
Eventually the police came. They told them to release me and I’ve made a complaint of common and actual assault. The police didn’t arrest me, they just took my complaint.
Mr Knox’s disability is not hard to make out as he wears a leg brace, but he was ignored. He sent the SKWAWKBOX images of himself and of an an injury to his leg sustained during the alleged assault:
Londoner Shabbir Lakha, shown in the video above talking to Rees-Mogg, told the SKWAWKBOX:
I talked to Jacob Rees-Mogg at the front of the hall, a conversation along the lines of ‘Shame on you for being a despicable person’, he wanted to know why. I said his support for austerity and his attitude to women’s rights.
He tried to claim austerity is lifting people out of poverty – I answered with foodbanks and homelessness, there’s no way you can defend that position. He ignored that and switched to talking about jobs being at a record level. I told him that won’t fly when they’re insecure jobs and wages are stagnating for everybody.
Then I was very aggressively removed from the meeting – that wasn’t shown in the footage the TV has used. There were about twelve of us in there protesting – those chanting were removed immediately. There were a couple of hundred or so Tories.
Other protesters told the SKWAWKBOX of sustaining injuries when they were shoved to the floor by conference-goers and security guards. Video footage of the protest is available on YouTube – including Tories chanting ‘Labour scum’.
The end of the video appears to capture the point at which at least one of the protesters is pushed to the ground as they are forced backwards out of the hall to Tory cheers:
The full YouTube video can be seen here.
Greater Manchester Police have been contacted for the status of any investigation into the protesters’ complaint.
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