Zak King: I protected protesters from baton strikes on ‘frontline’

Sketch by Matthew Meadows: Counsels Lofthouse (front) & Wainright (back) at Woolwich Crown Court

Sketch by Matthew Meadows: Counsels Lofthouse (front) & Wainright (back) at Woolwich Crown Court

A MAN charged with violent disorder following a student demonstration in 2010 told a court of his attempts to stop people from being hit with batons and shields during violent scenes between police and protesters.

Zak King said he was able to block the strikes after wearing padded football gloves and shin pads on his arms after being warned of excessive police force at similar events that left a friend with a fractured arm.

King, who attended the anti-tuition fee demonstration on December 9 with his mum and younger brother, said he got caught up in the exchanges after being unable to leave the march due to police enforcing a containment without warning.

He said he had planned to leave by 4pm to make the five and a half hour journey home to Somerset for a careers advice meeting the following day.

After being told by police he could exit at Broad Sanctuary, near Westminster Abbey, he was warned by members of the public it was blocked and that there had been trouble between police and protesters.

He said he was then told by officers, who were unaware the containment was in place, he could leave via Whitehall where he encountered protesters who complained of being hit by the police.

Minutes later, he said: “A policeman reached forward and pulled a mans hood over his face and tried to strike him [with a baton]. I pulled him away and placed a hand on the policeman’s chest to hold him back because he looked like he had been seriously injured. I was in front of the line of protesters.”

He told the court he remained in the area because he wanted ‘to make sure people were okay’ and ‘observe the actions of the protesters and police’.

He said: “The police were holding people by the scruff [of the neck] and hitting them. At the same time I was trying to push them [the police] back so people didn’t get hit. Lots of people were getting hurt. Apart from journalists who had helmets on, I think I was the only one with any protection.”

He also described how police hit him with batons on his ankles, shins, arms, stomach and face when he was pushed forwards by the surging crowd or police made forays into the throng of protesters.

When asked by the judge he said: “I thought [the police] were unnecessarily hurting people. I felt they could have pushed people back rather than holding them and hitting them at the same time.”

He said he also felt personally targeted.

“One officer in a red helmet, when I moved forward and used my arms to stop batons hitting me and others, he said ‘kick his fucking head in’. He was fairly close to me so I assumed it was me he was talking about. After that it seemed more police would specifically target me and hit me with their truncheon, often three at a time,” he said.

Sketch by Matthew Meadows: Zak King denied engaging in any violence with the police

Sketch by Matthew Meadows: Zak King denied engaging in any violence with the police

Video footage filmed by a police helicopter and evidence gatherers showed metal fencing being passed over the protesters’ heads towards the police lines.

King said he had no contact with the fence while it was being pushed towards the police, but admitted to helping hold it up as a vertical barrier to stop officers hitting out with their batons.

However, he said, that didn’t stop people to the side being hit when the crowd surged forward.

He said: “I tried to pull one protester back but he was struck on the head. I pulled his hood back and he was bleeding and I said to the police ‘he needs to leave, he needs a medic’ and one said ‘no one leaves, there are no medics’.”

He said he eventually left Parliament Street after being hit in the face by a baton.

He said: “I thought [my cheek bone] may have been broken so I had my hands up around my head and neck to protect myself, [but] they continued to strike me. Someone grabbed me and wrapped their hands around me to try and protect me.

“I felt very scared. Everything went black. Gradually I managed to move through the crowd and eventually met up with my mum and brother again.”

A video interview with King, filmed by a journalist later in Parliament Square, was played to the court where he said he wasn’t there for violence and had pleaded with officers to stop hitting out at people.

He said he was later moved with the containment to Westminster Bridge where he was kept for more than two hours in freezing conditions.

King said at no time did he throw anything at the police or engage in any violence.

However, on cross-examination prosecution barrister James Lofthouse accused King of willfully engaging in violent behaviour towards the police when he could have retreated to Parliament Square and away from trouble at any time.

He said King wore protective padding and a scarf to cover his face with the intention of fighting with police that day.

And questioned why King didn’t insist on his brother wearing padding if he was so concerned about protecting themselves from the police and why he didn’t remain with his family or get in touch with them during the day.

On King’s claim that he wanted to observe the police and protesters engaging he asked what he hoped to capture given he had no camera and there were plenty of photographers there.

He said it wasn’t the police who moved forward to attack the protesters, rather the crowd who surged forward to attack the police.

Lofthouse said: “There were no surging attacks by the police. They remained on the cordon and didn’t advance at all.

“I suggest your entire account: attacks by the police, repeated truncheon strikes, is simply made-up. It doesn’t bear any comparison to reality.”

King, along with Alfie Meadows, denies charges of violent disorder.

The trial is expected to continue for another week.

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