The responses to a Tory minister’s alleged assault of a protester sum up Britain in 2019

MP Mark Field pushing a woman against a pillar

On 20 June, chancellor Philip Hammond spoke at Mansion House. Greenpeace interrupted the black-tie event to protest the government’s handling of the climate emergency we all face. During the course of the protest, minister Mark Field grabbed a protester by the neck and then proceeded to shove her out of the building.

Field now faces accusations of assault, while the protester is receiving support from people all over the country. The responses to this incident show several divides in this country – ranging from climate protest and climate inaction; state violence and protest, and privilege and inequality.

“Police matter”

As The Canary reported:

Greenpeace… said 40 of its activists, some of whom wore red evening dresses with sashes that read “climate emergency”… interrupted the event, which was being broadcast live on television.

In a statement, Greenpeace UK climate campaigner Areeba Hamid said: “This is a climate emergency. Business as usual is no longer an option.”

The alleged assault occurred when a protester walked behind Foreign Office minister Mark Field. The minister stood up and pushed the protester against a pillar – grabbing her throat in the process. He then held the back of her neck and pushed her towards an exit.

Owen Jones shared this video:

Read on...

The incident is now a police matter, with City of London Police confirming:

“We have received a small number of third party reports of an assault taking place at the [Mansion House] event. These reports are being looked into by police.”

Backlash and support

Greenpeace activist Hannah Martin said this:

Some pointed out the difference between this protest and previous ones:

A lawyer offered her support on Twitter:

The Secret Barrister shared an article dealing with the legality of what Field did:

Journalist Paul Mason speculated that the image could become symbolic of British privilege in 2019:

Some pointed out that – like with climate change – ministers’ words don’t always match their actions:

This tweet shows how several Labour MPs have reacted. It also shows how elements of the media are treating the alleged assault as a partisan issue:

Novara‘s Ash Sarkar highlighted the difference in how people react to incidents like this and other acts of violence:

Tory response

The response from several Conservatives has been somewhat different. Johnny Mercer – who’s campaigned for British soldiers to escape responsibility for potential war crimes – said:

Conservative MPs Vicky Ford and Crispin Blunt said:

These responses are slightly at odds with the more cautious response from Conservative Party chair Brandon Lewis. Rather than rushing in to support the clearly violent actions, Lewis told Good Morning Britain:

Some right-wing commentators, however, have come across as positively enthusiastic:

“Instinctively reacted”

Field himself has said:

In the confusion many guests understandably felt threatened and when one protester rushed past me towards the top table I instinctively reacted.

There was no security present and I was for a split-second genuinely worried she might have been armed.

As a result I grasped the intruder firmly in order to remove her from the room as swiftly as possible.

I deeply regret this episode and unreservedly apologise to the lady concerned for grabbing her but in the current climate I felt the need to act decisively to close down the threat to the safety of those present.

Whether Field had grounds to “instinctively” grab a climate protester by the throat is now a police matter. Regardless of how the investigation goes, however, it’s clear many people know exactly what they think about the incident. Disturbingly, some people in authority seem to have no problem with it whatsoever.

Featured image via screengrab

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  • Show Comments
    1. The point of protest is to make your voice heard so if the organisers of this event couldn’t be arsed to have some decent security measures in place it serves them right. There is no excuse for violence towards peaceful protest and any man that uses it to try and stop a female protester is just a C**T.

      he says he was worried she might have been armed but I believe thats a lie because if anyone thought that in that room they would have all be under the tables screaming for their nannies and their dum dums.

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