Friday, December 17, 2010

British student with CP to file formal complaint against police for being dragged from his wheelchair during tuition protests

From AFP:

A disabled man, suffering from cerebral palsy, is planning to bring a formal complaint against the police who he says twice dragged him from his wheelchair and across a road in London during last week's student protests.

A video posted on YouTube appears to show the protester, Jody McIntyre, (pictured) being pulled across the road by police on what McIntyre said was the second of two occasions at the anti-tuition fees protest on December 9.

Outrage about the incident grew on Dec. 14 as BBC journalist Ben Brown was heavily criticised by viewers after aggressively grilling McIntyre in an interview on the BBC's News 24 channel late on Monday, questioning him in way many viewers found insensitive. By late on Tuesday, a clip of the interview, posted on YouTube had gathered more than 50,000 hits and a top BBC editor had been forced to mount a defence of the interview.

When McIntyre was asked whether he had been "wheeling yourself towards police" he had to explain: "I can't physically use my wheelchair myself. My brother was pushing me. I think it was quite obvious from the footage that I was 100 percent not a threat to anyone."

And he added: "Do you really think a person with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair can pose a threat to a police officer who is armed with weapons?"

Kevin Bakhurst, controller of the BBC News Channel, said on Tuesday that the BBC had received "a considerable number of complaints" about the interview as a web campaign mounted in support of McIntyre. Bakhurst defended the way Brown interviewed McIntyre, saying he "challenged him politely but robustly on his assertions".

The Metropolitan Police said the case had been referred to the Directorate of Professional Standards and police would contacting McIntyre directly.

The latest protest row puts further pressure on Metropolitan Police chief Paul Stephenson whose force has also been criticized for failing to adequately protect a car carrying Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, and for using allegedly excessive force against some demonstrators. One protester required brain surgery after allegedly being struck by a police baton.

At least 38 people have been arrested following the protests over government plans, passed that day by MPs in the House of Commons, to raise tuition fees for students at university.