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August 7, 2009

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Watchdog calls for changes in protest policing

THE police watchdog in Britain yesterday called for immediate changes to the policing of protests following claims by a woman she might have miscarried due to excessive force during the anti-G20 demonstrations in London.

The 23-year-old alleged she was kicked and pushed by officers using shields and batons during the Climate Camp protest in London in April, the Independent Police Complaints Commission said.

She not only suffered bruising but also heavy vaginal bleeding which her doctor said could have indicated she had suffered a miscarriage, although she was unaware that she had been pregnant and this was never confirmed.

"While this young woman's alleged injuries were more serious than most, her experience appears to have been typical of many peaceful protesters on April 1," said Deborah Glass, the IPCC commissioner for London.

"Like many others that day, she says she had no prior warning of the police intention to use force in containing the crowd, and no prior warning of a containment tactic that prevented her leaving."

The IPCC inquiry is the latest to criticize police over the G20 protests, particularly the use of the containment tactic called "kettling."

Newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson, 47, died after he was caught up in a demonstration outside the Bank of England, and there have been hundreds of complaints about police behavior, including charges of excessive violence by some officers. Prosecutors are now deciding whether the officer involved in a confrontation with Tomlinson should face criminal charges.

Last month, a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary into the anti-G20 protests concluded that the police's public order tactics were "inadequate."

The IPCC report yesterday said the woman had been forcibly pushed by an officer using a shield - a tactic which did not form part of any national training, and she had not been allowed to leave the area for four to five hours to seek treatment.

The IPCC said the woman did not want individual officers to face action but a widespread review of tactics.

It called on the police to implement changes to ensure the public were aware of likely police action; to allow vulnerable or distressed people to leave containment areas; and for a review of public order training.


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