Police and demonstrators clash during protest in Sheffield city centre

Written by Katya Witney

Police have been accused of violence towards protestors during a demonstration by the Kurdish community in Sheffield city centre on Sunday, when police reportedly “hurled people to the ground and hit them around their heads.”

Around a hundred people from Sheffield’s Kurdish community and the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) gathered outside Sheffield Town Hall to stand in solidarity with Kurdish fighters in Northern Iraq where Turkish forces recently launched a military offensive.

Of the demonstrators, that included families and young children, men and a woman were reportedly pepper sprayed and had flags forcibly confiscated. One person, who was delivering a speech at the protest was detained by police but later released without charge.

John Grayson, one of the founders of SYMAAG and researcher for the group who was at the demonstration said: “One guy was hurled to the ground right in front of me and just missed a small child. They were using batons and wading into the crowd, they were certainly menacing and violent. They all had pepper sprays which they started to use. There was a lot of use of pepper spray by police.

“A woman who had been heavily pepper sprayed was violently sick at the scene and there were another two men who were really heavily pepper sprayed, they received treatment, not from medics but from friends.

The demonstration started at around noon and included speeches from a number of local members of the Kurdish community. Demonstrators were holding flags protesting against the Turkish government and president, Recep Erdogan.

A statement from SYMAAG regarding police action at the protest said: “SYMAAG demands an immediate investigation by the Chief Constable and Police Commissioner into the tactics and violence of the South Yorkshire police. It is intolerable that a peaceful crowd with families with tiny children gathering on a sunny Sunday afternoon to celebrate their Kurdish identity and to protest the invasion of their country were assaulted by their own local Sheffield police.”

“From 1.30 the mood shifted as the police decided that they wanted to seize some of the flags and refused to return them to families,” said the SYMAAG statement. “One family asked me to try and get their flag back from the police. The police officer point blank refused saying that they would retain flags as part of an investigation looking at whether they ’supported any proscribed organisation’.

“Other individuals and families tried to get back their flags and the police responded on the town hall steps with real violence hurling people to the ground and hitting people around their heads. A woman and some Kurdish men were pepper sprayed by the police.

“Eventually some of the flags were wrestled back from the police and a Kurdish man, one of our speakers, was arrested.”

South Yorkshire Police have been contacted for a statement.

Written by Katya Witney

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