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.
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:
This is Tory MP Mark Field, and this should now be a police matter pic.twitter.com/IJnHyWPI1N
— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) June 20, 2019
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:
We were peaceful protestors making a critical point about the state of our country’s response to the most pressing issue of our time. We should not expect to receive such disproportionate physical violence. Full stop. #r4today pic.twitter.com/10EaHuWoVL
— Hannah Martin (@Hannah_RM) June 21, 2019
Some pointed out the difference between this protest and previous ones:
For those who argue Mark Field was justified in his actions as the woman could have been a threat, worth noting there were several Tory MPs at Esther McVey’s leadership launch when this – genuinely very furious – man stormed the stage. He was barely touched. pic.twitter.com/cmtmSaarnB
— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) June 21, 2019
150 hours community service for chucking a milkshake at someone. Wonder what this one will get? https://t.co/XkFTUsiIK7
— Trisha Greenhalgh #PeoplesVote (@trishgreenhalgh) June 21, 2019
A lawyer offered her support on Twitter:
I am horrified how a MP can show such unmerited aggression and violence against this poor woman, in a public no less, with 100s watching and absolutely no intervention from anyone.
— Deeba Syed 🤨 (@deebasyed) June 20, 2019
The Secret Barrister shared an article dealing with the legality of what Field did:
Today seems an apt time to offer this reminder of the law of self-defence when dealing with unwanted guests. https://t.co/o9LjCQY5G8
TLDR: If a person does not believe the use force is necessary, or if the force used is objectively not reasonable, it is a criminal assault.
— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) June 21, 2019
Journalist Paul Mason speculated that the image could become symbolic of British privilege in 2019:
Men attacking women. Powerful men dressed in the regalia of bourgeois privilege attacking women trying to save the planet. The greenwashed City elite stands by and does nothing. The symbolism of this will resonate for a century… https://t.co/nfzUF40jFY
— Paul Mason (@paulmasonnews) June 21, 2019
Some pointed out that – like with climate change – ministers’ words don’t always match their actions:
This has aged badly in an incredibly short amount of time https://t.co/qKRLr3aS9R
— Kevin Blowe 🏴 (@copwatcher) June 20, 2019
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:
Clear Labour will push this tomorrow. 👇🏼 https://t.co/7C6Q2gz6aO
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) June 20, 2019
Novara‘s Ash Sarkar highlighted the difference in how people react to incidents like this and other acts of violence:
I wonder what drives this kind of violence. Is it cultural? The kind of music he listens to? A lack of strong male role models in the home?
I want to hear from the community leaders on this! pic.twitter.com/0yD2dyLaD4
— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) June 21, 2019
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:
Honestly? Try being in our shoes in the current environment.
He panicked, he’s not trained in restraint and arrest, and if you think this is ‘serious violence’, you may need to recalibrate your sensitivities. Calm down, move on, and be thankful this wasn’t worse. https://t.co/ALMQMDh4Ya
— Johnny Mercer MP (@JohnnyMercerUK) June 21, 2019
alright, we probably shouldn’t be that surprised about this guy being fine with the assault pic.twitter.com/9sC4PUzrCE
— Jon Stone (@joncstone) June 21, 2019
Conservative MPs Vicky Ford and Crispin Blunt said:
I agree with @Iaindale – the protestor was carrying a bag, rushing towards the Governor of the Bank of England & could have been armed. Where was security???!!@MarkFieldUK has referred himself for investigation. If she’d been carrying a weapon we’d all be hailing him a hero https://t.co/dprXUbtKf5
— Vicky Ford MP (@vickyford) June 21, 2019
I think @MarkFieldUK is to be commended. With in practice minimum use of force he efficiently eliminated a potential threat to people and the event in the absence of any alternative. It’s called taking responsibility and leadership.
— Crispin Blunt MP (@CrispinBlunt) June 21, 2019
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:
'Mark has referred himself to the Cabinet Office investigation process… but I won't comment any further until we get the full details.'
Tory Chairman Brandon Lewis on MP Mark Field who is under fire after removing climate change activist at an event in London yesterday. pic.twitter.com/zRMGkyKgVr
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) June 21, 2019
Some right-wing commentators, however, have come across as positively enthusiastic:
Morning all. This happened last night. I have a funny feeling that, in a few years’ time, this is how *most* of us are going to feel towards climate protesters… https://t.co/Djj1qtByT8
— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) June 21, 2019
'Are we going to have a situation where any protester can go into any room and disrupt any event with no consequences…' @IainDale condoning Mark Field's violent assault on a female protester..pic.twitter.com/fODnzILBwV
— The Agitator (@UKDemockery) June 21, 2019
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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