British minister suspended for manhandling protester from gala
Junior Foreign Office minister Mark Field said he ‘deeply’ regretted his actions (AFP)
Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
Published Friday, June 21, 2019 7:30AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 21, 2019 8:15AM EDT
LONDON -- British Prime Minister Theresa May's office suspended Foreign Office Minister Mark Field on Friday while an investigation takes place into his treatment of a climate change protester at the gala Mansion House dinner.
The City of London Police, the Cabinet Office and the Conservative Party are all investigating the incident that took place Thursday night at the annual black-tie event that showcases the financial industry. May's office said she saw the footage and found it "concerning."
Treasury chief Philip Hammond was speaking when activists, wearing red dresses and sashes reading "Climate Change Emergency," began milling around tables at the event. Video shows the female protester walking forward toward Hammond when Field blocks her path. He then pushes her into a pillar to turn her around and places his hand firmly on the Greenpeace protester as he leads her away.
"The protester in question was hoping to discuss climate change and the economic reforms we need with the financiers and bankers at the dinner," said Areeba Hamid, Climate Campaigner for Greenpeace UK. "We hope they will show a greater willingness to listen and understand the necessity for urgent action than their representative (Field)."
The demonstration comes after climate change activists disrupted life and travel in the British capital in April, bringing parts of London to a standstill as they demanded net carbon emissions be reduced to zero by 2025.
Field, a lawmaker whose constituency is in central London, had complained to London authorities at the time that commuters in London were "quite rightly fed up" with the travel disruptions caused by protests from the Extinction Rebellion group. In a letter to Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, Field said while he respected the right to peaceful protest, shutting down traffic had gone beyond "a good-natured exercise in free speech" and become detrimental to locals.
Hammond continued his speech at Mansion House after a brief pause, and defended the government record on climate change.
But as the video became public, leaders in office expressed a range of views. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan described the footage as "truly shocking."
"Violence against women is endemic in our society and this behaviour is unacceptable," he said.
But others suggested that Field might have been concerned that protester had a weapon and was near some of Britain's most senior officials.
Fellow Conservative and former soldier Johnny Mercer tweeted: "Honestly? Try being in our shoes in the current environment. He panicked, he's not trained in restraint and arrest ... calm down, move on, and be thankful this wasn't worse."