Serious concerns have been raised after three legal observers were assaulted by police at a recent Kill the Bill demonstration in Manchester. They have lodged complaints with Greater Manchester Police, including one allegation of sexual assault after a male officer grabbed a female legal observer’s chest.

ice grab a legal observer by their coat, while three other police officers huddle around someone on the ground

The Manchester Meteor, which covered the story, said Greater Manchester Police were investigating the complaints. Legal Observers have reported increased targeting by police in recent weeks after monitoring escalating levels of violence against protesters. Greater Manchester Police is facing legal action after officers from the Tactical Aid Unit (TAU), the city’s riot unit, choked a young student in a shocking unprovoked assault as the student was leaving a demonstration, apparently for shaking his head at an officer. The student reported nearly losing consciousness while the officer choked him. 

Legal observers who witnessed the assault and assisted the student have said the police now seem to recognise them, and are targeting them as retribution. 

Manchester’s Mayor Andy Burnham has, meanwhile, demanded an explanation from the police after officers dragged a young woman through the city centre with her underwear exposed while arresting her. There have been accusations that the Manchester Tactical Aid Unit is out of control after officers kicked and hit protesters sitting on the floor at another Kill The Bill protest.

image shows a montage of police in manchester with guns strapped to their waists

Legal observers have also documented the presence of armed police officers at a recent Kill the Bill demonstration largely made up of young people. Four firearms officers were present as protesters walked through Manchester Piccadilly railway station on Saturday 24 April. When questioned, a police sergeant confirmed that they had been authorised to carry weapons while policing the demonstration and to use weapons “in the defence of property”.

Netpol is calling for Greater Manchester Police to immediately de-escalate their officers’ violent behaviour and we are supporting efforts to hold the police to account for assaulting legal observers and members of the public. We will continue to work with groups on the ground in Manchester to monitor the situation. 

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