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Moment police officer punches protester in face during Peckham raid

Exclusive: Footage provides new evidence of police brutalising protesters at an immigration raid in south London

Anita Mureithi
16 June 2022, 6.00am

Shocking footage has revealed the moment a Metropolitan Police officer punched a protester in the face as she resisted an immigration raid in Peckham.

It is among a series of allegations of violence made against the Met during Saturday’s events, which ended with a man being bailed and cops leaving empty-handed. One protester said police knelt on their back, while others reported seeing people pushed and trampled.

Video obtained by openDemocracy shows police officers pushing protesters, and captures one appearing to punch someone as the crowd’s chants of “go away, facist scum” get louder.

The protester is visibly upset and is seen gesturing at her face. Police monitoring group Netpol has reported that another protester suffered a partially dislocated hip.

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“There was a guy to the left of me who was getting kicked and hit,” said the woman’s friend Amardeep Singh Dhillon. “There was a guy who got his shirt ripped, I think when the police tried to grab him. The girl next to me, who's a friend of mine – the policeman tried to shove her back. She was falling, so she grabbed onto his strap to stop herself falling backwards.

“And then he grabbed her. He swung a few punches and some of them missed, but I think he hit her twice. One of them hit her in the nose, and her nose was bleeding.”

They added: “He also grabbed her by the throat and grabbed her bag. Two officers tried to… pull her out of the crowd and behind the police line. We managed to rip her back. At that point, I’d been shoved about a fair bit. And we were pushed to the floor. We still didn't let go of each other.”

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Amardeep also said an officer knelt on their back. “I can't say how long it was for. But it felt like an age,” they added.

Sophie, who asked us not to publish their full name, jumped under the immigration van and held on underneath. They told openDemocracy that they were brutally shoved and had their bra ripped off by police.

“They were literally shoving people to the ground,” they said. “I was right at the front.

“The cops literally ripped my bra, because they pulled my top down. They were stamping on us, and I know somebody got hit by a cop.

“I have massive bruises under my arms where they were yanking me out. Four or five of them carried me away.”

Sophie told openDemocracy they saw people on the floor being stamped on.

One protester, said Sophie, was feeling faint so was lying on the ground. Police continued to shove people away and wouldn’t let others help her.

Diyora, who asked us not to publish her surname, said the atmosphere quickly became "really scary" when back-up police officers arrived to help the immigration workers.

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Credit: Thabo Jaiyesimi/Alamy Live News

They pushed the crowd back, but protesters sat down and formed a chain to resist them.

“There were a few policemen who were just being so ruthless,” she said. “You could tell that they were just trying to hurt people.”

Griff, who also asked us not to publish his full name, got to the raid when there were about ten people trying to block the immigration van, told openDemocracy the police back-up officers had tried to force their way through the crowd upon arrival.

“They were using full force, grabbing people and dragging them, shoving them, punches [were thrown], people around the fringes – some of them got thrown to the floor,” he said.

“I didn't see the punch, but I saw [someone] get smacked in the face. Immediately after, she was blinking and looked shocked, and had her hand raised up to her face.”

A broken culture of policing in local communities

openDemocracy asked Scotland Yard whether it believed officers’ response was proportionate, and whether the officers who were seen to be punching, kicking and stamping on protesters would face disciplinary action. 

A spokesperson said: “Metropolitan Police officers may be called upon to prevent a breach of the peace and to deal with allegations of further criminal offences. We recognise operations of this nature can lead to strong reactions.

“However, where the safety of staff from other organisations carrying out their lawful duties is endangered, we have a responsibility to take appropriate action.”

Campaigns coordinator at Netpol, Kevin Blowe, told openDemocracy that the police’s reaction to the immigration raid was an extension of the standard approach to policing within local communities – particularly working-class, and Black and Asian communities in London, where the norm is to arrive on the scene and become aggressive in a very short space of time.

“For people who have been living in those communities for years, that was pretty much the standard police response to everything. I don't necessarily think it's unique to anti-raids type of actions,” he said.

“The police's standard response to dealing with any form of confrontation in spaces like Hackney, Peckham and elsewhere, is just to get the batons out and start pushing people around.”

He added: “The Metropolitan Police [and police across the country] really don't like being humiliated. They will want somebody to carry the can for this,” he said. 

The man who was detained in an immigration van for several hours was eventually released on bail. 

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ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

Benny, another protester at the raid, told openDemocracy: “​​We just felt a sudden need to defend each other. And I think that's why we all stood our ground. 

“The police brutality… hardened our resolve to stand by this person who was in the van”.

Protesters chanted “don’t come back to Peckham” as officers left.

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