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Video: Police called as Islington cuts vote turns to chaos

PUBLISHED: 10:51 18 February 2011 | UPDATED: 14:35 18 February 2011

Police in the public gallery at Islington Town Hall

Police in the public gallery at Islington Town Hall

Archant

POLICE were called to Islington Town Hall last night after a council meeting was disrupted by anti-cuts protesters.

Police in the public gallery at Islington Town Hall

There were chaotic scenes as officers surged into the public gallery to eject dozens of angry residents who had been loudly voicing their bitter opposition to the cuts that were set to be voted through.

One man was arrested and many more were forcibly removed from the meeting after refusing to leave – with a committed few remaining fixed to their seats long after the council chamber had been emptied and the disorder had died down.

As residents left the town hall in Upper Street, Islington, in anger, councillors reconvened in a private meeting room where Islington Council’s Labour leadership voted through its £52million package of cuts – which is set to bring hundreds of job losses and massive reductions to frontline services.

Dave Plummer, of Tufnell Park Road, Tufnell Park, a member of public sector trade union PCS, was one of those removed from the gallery. He said: “The police were dragging people off and manhandling them. A policeman barged me out of the way. I’m shaking.”

Lewis Petterson, 24, unemployed, of Upper Street, said: “Police were dragging people out forcibly. They were dragging people out for protesting about their jobs and futures, exercising their democratic right to oppose these devastating cuts.”

Councillor Mouna Hamitouche, Mayor of Islington, who was chairing the full council meeting, had struggled to calm the public gallery from the beginning of the meeting. Councillors had been drowned out one after another as they attempted to carry out their business. Chants echoed around the chamber, with the most repeated refrain: “If you vote this budget through, that makes you a Tory too!”

Councillor Hamitouche eventually adjourned the meeting, when the police moved in.

Protesters had marched from Highbury Fields to the steps of the Town Hall beforehand, led by unions and the Islington Hands Off Our Public Services campaign group.

Superintendent Simon Corkill, of Islington Police, said: “We fully respect people’s right to protest and in this case we worked closely with London Borough of Islington in relation to a pre-planned protest march. Officers from Islington escorted the march to the town hall uneventfully and left. We were called back shortly after to reports of a protest at the venue. Police supported the council in removing the protesters, the majority of whom left peacefully. One man was arrested for breach of the peace.”

Click on the player above to view video footage of the chaos unfolding during the meeting. Beware the video contains very strong language.

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