Campaigners complain about police at Bush demonstration

Campaign group Stop the War has sent a letter of complaint to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith about the behaviour of the police at Sunday's demonstration against president Bush's London visit.

Stop the War campaigners said they were denied permission to march along Whitehall to protest at Downing Street's decision to welcome Bush. Instead, authorities allowed a static protest in Parliament Square.

Violence broke out when protesters were prevented from delivering a letter to Downing Street and 25 campaigners were arrested. Stop the War said two protesters were admitted to St Thomas' Hospital with head injuries. Police say 10 police officers sustained minor injuries.

Former MP Tony Benn, who was at the front of the crowd, told Third Sector that the behaviour of the police reminded him of clashes during the 1984 miners strike and the 1986 anti-Murdoch protests in Wapping.

"We wanted to deliver the letter, but there was a huge police barrier," he said. "People pushed and police came out with their batons. It was very unpleasant. I've never in my life been prevented from walking to Number 10 with a letter."

Stop the War's letter demands a meeting with Jacqui Smith to discuss the day's events and says the group will not cooperate with the Metropolitan Police until their concerns are given consideration.

A draft of the letter reads: "There is no justification for the assault on peaceful demonstrators, none of whom were prepared for physical confrontation."

It adds: "The idea that we could present any physical threat to the President of the US is laughable."

In a statement, Chris Allison, deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, praised the police officers involved, describing their behaviour as "measured and professional".

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