Mark Field MP, a junior minister in the Foreigh Office, ejected a female climate change protester, from Greenpeace, who’d invaded the room in the Mansion House in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, was giving a speech. Video here (2:03). Sadly he apologized – big mistake – and was suspended as a minister by Theresa May for… well… ejecting a hostile and potentially life-threatening woman from the room, it would seem.
Mark Field’s actions were wholly justified and proportionate. The woman could have been armed, or otherwise posed a serious threat to people, for all he knew. The five highest-rated comments on the video, on the YouTube channel of The Sun:
Well… a Secretary of State able to do the job of a security agent? He deserves some applause.
Well done sir and a minimum of fuss getting her out.
Uninvited woman being ejected and treated the same as a man. That’s equality for you. ??
Well done Mark, name any TV studio or news paper that wouldn’t have forcefully removed from their building if you didn’t have a security pass and persisted to gate crash an event.
Well done Mr Field, he should be promoted not suspended.
A piece in The Times:
Theresa May has suspended a Tory minister who was filmed manhandling a woman climate change protester.
Downing Street said that the prime minister found the footage “very concerning” and that Mark Field, a junior minister in the Foreign Office, had been asked to step down immediately.
Mr Field, who is a close ally of Jeremy Hunt, was already facing an investigation by the Conservative Party over his strong-arming of a peaceful activist at the annual Bankers and Merchants Dinner.
City of London police said that they had received a “small number of third party reports of an assault taking place at the event” and that they were looking into the matter.
In a statement to ITV, Mr Field said that he had referred himself to the Cabinet Office for investigation, that he “deeply” regretted the incident and that he apologised “unreservedly” to the protester.
“In the confusion many guests understandably felt threatened and when one protester rushed past me towards the top table I instinctively reacted,” he said. “There was no security present and I was for a split-second genuinely worried she might have been armed. As a result I grasped the intruder firmly in order to remove her from the room as swiftly as possible.”
Philip Hammond had just begun to speak when the Greenpeace protesters, wearing suffragette-style sashes reading “climate emergency”, surrounded the podium, took the microphone and told the audience that “business as usual is no longer an option”. They were swiftly ushered out and the chancellor carried on with his speech.
Hannah Martin, one of the protesters, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “we were peacefully protesting” and “none of the other guests felt the need to assault anyone”. She condemned Mr Field’s actions as “disproportionate and unacceptable”.
Brandon Lewis, the Conservative Party chairman, said that there would be an investigation into Mr Field’s actions. He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that he could understand why people would be concerned” but he stressed the need for a full inquiry.
Alistair Burt, an MP who has previously served at the Foreign Office, said: “It looks to be a very difficult situation for everyone concerned.”
Paul Brand, a political correspondent for ITV News, tweeted: “You can see the woman apparently posing no immediate threat as she passes behind Mark Field. He marches her out of the room by her neck. I wasn’t there, so I can’t say she didn’t pose a risk, but it looks heavy handed.”
Sir Peter Bottomley, the Conservative MP, said that Mr Field “deserves to be congratulated” for his actions. “Mark Field did the same as anyone would have done if someone came uninvited into a broadcast studio.”
George Freeman, another Tory MP, tweeted: “This looks appallingly rough handling of a woman climate protester in a dress. But before everyone rushes to instant armchair judgment can I suggest that all of us who weren’t there & don’t know what was said or done just wait a few hours to hear what those who *were* there say.”
However, the Labour MP Jess Phillips tweeted: “She posed no credible threat from what I can see. There is very little else that could justify this and anyone can see that this could have been done without physical contact. [J4MB: How? What a stupid woman.] Every MP has to deal with protest and conflict, it is done with words. To watch this is so so awful.” [J4MB emphasis]
Others pointed out that Mr Field had previously spoken out about supporting Sri Lankan police on combating gender-based violence. Last month he wrote on Twitter after a debate on Women Human Rights Defenders: “The UK remains committed to helping women all over the world to feel safe and protected in the work they do.”
It emerged that in April Mr Field sent a letter to the Metropolitan police demanding “a much firmer grip” on climate change protesters after the Extinction Rebellion protests.
Greenpeace UK said: “We were shocked at the footage of an elected MP and government minister assaulting one of our peaceful protesters at the Mansion House tonight.”
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