Riot as police clash with protesters at Haringey Council
Two arrested, “criminal damage” and staff injured as protestors against the council’s �41 million of budget cuts occupied the council chamber
THERE were violent scenes at Haringey Council last night as anti-cuts protesters clashed with police at a budget meeting.
Two people were arrested following the clashes and at least one member of council staff was injured as protesters forced past police to occupy the council chamber, smashing glass doors and graffiting the Town Hall.
Council leader Claire Kober branded the actions of what she termed a minority, “disgraceful and an affront to democracy”.
At least 200 protesters met outside the Wood Green Civic Centre last night to protest against the Labour administration’s plan to axe �41 miliion from next year’s council budget, following government cuts.
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But scenes began to turn sour as, just before the meeting, protesters entered the Civic Centre chanting ‘Whose Town Hall? Our Town Hall’. While some made it up into the public gallery after opposition from officers, others began to clash with police at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the entrance where councillors usually enter the chamber.
The surge of people made it past police but were stopped by a cordon of police at the glass double doors into the chamber, where skirmishes began.
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Protesters chanted “push” as the crowd surged towards the chamber and a glass panel was smashed.
Around six people made it past police and into the chamber, where they took up occupancy and continued to chant, giving speeches from the Mayor’s chair. The phrase “No more cuts” was graffitied across the front of the chamber.
Council leader Claire Kober attempted to speak to protesters
People on the concourse were eventually forced back down the stairs by police and the press were then moved upstairs into the Town Hall canteen where councillors were waiting to try and begin the meeting.
But the fire alarm began to sound as protesters began to force their way against a number of police officers down a corridor towards the canteen, causing members to be evacuated out of the building.
At least two protesters were then led past councillors into a police van - it is believed they were taken to Hornsey Police Station, where a solidarity protest later took place.
Councillors were then led back into the main chamber, where the meeting began - more than an hour and a half after originally planned at 9pm.
The meeting was webcast and only a handful of members of the public, who had already been approved to give deputations, were allowed into the meeting.
Speaking to press before the meeting took place, Cllr Kober said: “I am livid with the actions of a minority of people, many of whom I don’t believe are local people, who assaulted our staff, damaged our building and prevented local people from being heard.
“I think they are an disgrace - it’s an affront to democracy.”
She said one female member off staff had been knocked clean off her feet by protesters and asked what went wrong, she added: “Our staff have been planning for a week - there was a small group of people determined to cause disruption and undertake criminal damage.”
Speaking about the police reaction to the incident, she said: “The police, confronted with criminal actions, have to take proportionate responses. I can’t talk about individual actions by police officers, but they are doing their job.
“When staff are being assaulted, that’s a criminal act and that requires a response.”
Haringey Council chief executive Kevin Crompton said: “I’m disappointed - this is not how we run democracy.
“When a small group of people are determined to break in, it makes it very difficult for the police to resist.
“We have liaised with the police all week, we have had careful planning and this is just the actions of a mob.”
Once the meeting was finally underway, councillors voted to pass the budget for 2011/12.
The Ham&High has pictures and videos of the protest in action - see www.hamhigh.co.uk for updates throughout the day.
We were tweeting live from the meeting from @HHBroadway - see our timeline to read the action as it happened.