Appeal For Witnesses
Newham Monitoring Project is appealing for witnesses to the incident reported in the Guardian below. Please contact Estelle Du Boulay if you can help.
Student fees protests: woman claims she was beaten by police
Student Tahmeena Bax filing complaint with IPCC over claim police beat her unconscious at protest in London
A student is filing a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission after she claims she was beaten unconscious with a police baton and was left without access to an ambulance for almost two hours during an anti-fees protest in central London last week.
Tahmeena Bax, a third-year history student at Queen Mary University in east London, said she was hit directly over the head at least three times by a riot officer when police charged a group of kettled protesters on the evening of 30 November.
The incident took place at the north east end of Trafalgar square, close to the National Gallery at around 6pm, as protesters some distance from Bax lifted barriers protecting the police line. The police charged the crowd. “The police suddenly rushed forward and I couldn’t escape. I was hit at least three times, mainly on the right side of my head,” she told the Guardian.
Bax, 20, who had become separated from her fellow protesters from Queen Mary’s, staggered 10m away from the police and collapsed unconscious on the ground.
A witness, Katia Ganfield, said: “I saw her curled up in a ball. There was no response from her. We were all in shock as we didn’t think a young girl would be hit to the ground like that.”
Lying on the tarmac, Bax remembers passing in and out of consciousness and press photographers’ flashlights going off around her. “I think people were trying to to keep me awake by asking me my name and questions like that,” she said.
Ganfield took a photo of Bax as she lay on the ground and also shot a video on her phone as protesters pleaded with police to send a medic to help.
“I felt really bad taking a photo but I thought that it would do her good in the end. Plenty of people were trying to help to her, going to the police lines and pleading with them. She was on the floor for around 10 to 15 minutes,” Ganfield said.
“The police were trying to say that she should be carried to the front line. They thought we were trying to trick them into coming to help the girl so we could break through the kettle. They were saying that she was just upset and dismissed her. I was very calm and I asked them to help saying, ‘there’s a girl on the ground who is concussed’. Some people were very persistent. Even a legal observer was trying to get help and he was met with a complete lack of concern.”
In the video a man in an orange jacket – worn by legal observers – can be seen negotiating with officers. He is heard to say to an officer: “You don’t want to move someone who’s seriously injured. It’s not sensible. They’re unconscious on the floor.” A police officer says: “I hear what you say. I am not sending any of my officers in there.”
Off camera, a scream of “medic” can be heard, and officers then send a police medical team into the kettle.
Bax was carried into the foyer of the Canadian embassy, where she says she had to wait an hour for paramedics to arrive on foot. It took a further 30 minutes for an ambulance to get to the embassy. “The fact that it took so long felt like they didn’t have my best interests at heart,” said Bax.
At the embassy, Bax said she was attended to by two male police medics who took off her hijab to inspect her head. One, she claimed, commented that the action was “like unwrapping a pass-the-parcel”.
Bax said the officer later repeated the comment. “The paramedics were putting my stuff in my bag and he said, ‘you need to put her headscarf in … it’s a pass-the-parcel, to be honest’.”
At Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital, Bax said, the same officer debated with her over the merits of tuition fees, telling her she was “narrow minded” and should stop reading the Guardian and read the Telegraph and the Daily Mail more often.
Bax said she is now suffering from severe headaches and is unable to read or write properly. She is finding it hard to study for her final exams. She was advised by doctors to take two weeks off from her studies and has had to reschedule essay deadlines and exams. More than a week later, Bax remains confused as to why she was targeted by police. “I wasn’t doing anything at the time, I don’t even look harmful. I don’t understand why the police are allowed to do things like this.”
Bax is being supported in her complaint by the Newham Monitoring Project, which was involved in aiding the family of newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson after his death during the G20 protests last year. Its director, Estelle du Boulay said: “Tahmeena Bax could easily have died as a result of head injuries. We are appealing for witnesses to come forward. It is vital the police are held to account for any misconduct.”
The Metropolitan Police confirmed that officers attended to a female protester who received head injuries during the protest and was later taken to a central London hospital.