This Is How One Tory MP Thinks It’s Acceptable To Handle Female Activists

In a room full of his colleagues.

Mark Field

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

Foreign Office minister Mark Field has been suspended and there are calls for a police investigation after he was accused of assault by Greenpeace after he forcibly removed an activist from an annual banquet event in Mansion House by pushing her, grabbing her by the neck and pinning her against a pillar.

A video circulating online shows the activist walking around tables full of people, attempting to walk past the Tory MPs chair, as he quickly jumps up and grabs her, forcing her against a pillar and then grabs her by the neck to march her out the room. The activist was part of 40 protestors dressed in suits and red dresses whom staged a peaceful protest for Greenpeace about climate change at the dinner.

The incident - that has now been referred to the Cabinet Office for investigation - happened during Chancellor Philip Hammond’s annual Mansion House speech about the state of the UK economy, with protestors reading out an alternative speech that called for ‘greater government investment and leadership to tackle the climate emergency we are in.’

Hoping to convince MP’s to take climate change seriously, they wore sashes that read ‘climate emergency’ and continued to act peacefully before Mark Field pushed one of the women. He has since apologised to the woman for ‘grabbing her’ but claims he acted ‘instinctively’ because he was worried she may have been armed.

His actions have been condemned online, with Labour MP Jess Phillips stating that MP’s face protestors all the time and it is never acceptable to resort to physical violence. ‘She posed no credible threat from what I can see,’ she tweeted, ‘There is very little else that could justify this and anyone can see that this could have been done without physical contact. Every MP has to deal with protest and conflict, it is done with words. To watch this is so so awful.’

‘To use your physical strength to overpower someone as a first and unprovoked response says a lot about a person,’ she continued, ‘I have had people scream in my face, lash out and rage, never once have I retaliated with violence. Very recently I faced hostile protestors, I was filmed you may recall, I didn't grab anyone by the neck.’

In a statement to ITV, Field says he only ‘grasped the intruder firmly’, saying he ‘deeply’ regrets the incident. ‘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.’

Greenpeace campaigner Areeba Hamid told the BBC that the activists, who are trained and experienced in non-violent direct action, knew they may face legal repercussions for their protest but never expected ‘physical assault’. ‘I think Mark Field should have a long hard stare at himself and think whether that behaviour is in keeping with someone in public office,’ she said, ‘We went into that event announcing who we were very clearly, we were there to make a very important point - that we are in a climate emergency - to a roomful of people who are actually capable of making some very profound decisions.’

Adding that it was ‘ludicrous’ to suggest she was armed; another activist stated his response was ‘completely disproportionate’. It can be heard in the video that when one MP asks for the woman to be removed, she replies ‘it’s a peaceful protest’.

Naturally, the response by many has been sheer fear. Watching the video, it’s quite terrifying to see such a strong reaction of instinctive violence towards a woman especially in a room full of people. More than that, full of colleagues – professional people that are some of the most powerful in this country. To watch a minister of our Foreign Office be so quick to resort to physical violence despite cameras rolling and many eyes on him, is extremely distressing. And, to see no one protest or speak up against his 'instinctive' violence towards the woman is cause for further concern. In what world can the people we trust to protect and serve our interests just sit and stare as a woman is pinned against a pillar and grabbed by the neck?

And yet, many MP’s support his actions. Sir Peter Bottomly, another Tory MP, said Field had done nothing wrong. Asked whether he was heavy-handed in grabbing the female activist by the neck, he said ‘No, he reversed her direction and she looked as though she went willingly. I think there's no reason to criticise Mark Field... Of course, it wasn't an assault, it was a reversal of direction.’

Johnny Mercer, Tory MP for Plymouth Moor view, completely minimised the violence, telling everyone to ‘calm down’. ‘Honestly? Try being in our shoes in the current environment,’ he tweeted, ‘He panicked, he’s not trained in restraint and arrest, and if you think this is “serious violence”, you may need to recalibrate your sensitivities. Calm down, move on, and be thankful this wasn’t worse.’

According to these Tory MPs, pushing female activists, pinning them to walls and grabbing them by the neck is completely acceptable. So as women, it’s not just the future leader of our country we have to be scared about then.

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