Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

UK minister suspended after ‘grabbing’ climate activist

Mark Field said he had worried the protestor may have been armed

Some MPs have called for Mark Field to be suspended. Screen grab
Some MPs have called for Mark Field to be suspended. Screen grab

A UK government minister has been suspended after he forcibly removed a climate activist from a dinner in London’s financial district.

Mark Field, foreign office minister for Asia and the Pacific, was filmed grabbing the woman, pushing her against a column and then marching her out of the room with his hands around her neck. It was claimed the protester was making her way towards the UK’s finance minister and the governor of the Bank of England.

Mr Field is set to face an investigation by his party after referring himself to the Cabinet Office and apologised for “grabbing” the woman.

The Conservative MP said he reacted “instinctively” during the “major security breach” as the protester walked past.

"There was no security present and I was for a split second genuinely worried she may have been armed,” he told ITV News.

City of London police confirmed they had received “a number of third-party reports of a possible assault”.

Mr Field faced calls to resign from opposition figures although some Conservative MPs came to his defence.

Labour’s shadow women and equalities minister Dawn Butler said: “This appears to be assault. He must be immediately suspended or sacked.”

Another Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi tweeted: “Mark Field should resign and be arrested. I don’t care in what order. No one who reacts like this to a peaceful protest should be sitting in our parliament.”

Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis said it was “very hard to defend the images we’ve seen,” adding that an investigation was under way.

But some rose to the foreign office minister’s defence.

"I think Mark Field did the right thing. He prevented the woman going further, he reversed her direction and she went out pretty willingly," Sir Peter Bottomley told the BBC.

"He intervened - I congratulate him for that, I would have done the same. Although she may have been harmless, others won't be."

Conservative George Freeman said it looked to be “appallingly rough handling.”

“But before everyone rushes to instant armchair judgement 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,” he said on Twitter.

Mr Field, MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, called on police in April to take “a much firmer grip” on climate protesters.

The roughly 40 Greenpeace activists crashed the event as the finance minister Philip Hammond was giving a speech to 350 business leaders. They were hoping to read a speech to the assembled bankers to urge them to do more to address climate change and put “survival” before revenue.

Updated: June 21, 2019 02:52 PM

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