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Monday, June 29, 1998 Published at 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK


UK

CS gas 'unprovoked', say campaigners



A spokesman for the National Black Alliance has warned that the temperature of south London has been raised by police action outside the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

National Black Alliance spokesman, Lee Jasper, said: "How is it that in a Stephen Lawrence inquiry they can feel the use of CS gas is necessary?

"It was completely avoidable and they have raised the whole temperature of south London today."

Police have confirmed that one CS gas canister was released in an attempt to control disruption in the hall at the bottom of the Hannibal House building where the inquiry is being held.

A crowd of over 100 had gathered in the shopping centre beneath the building, but had not been let in owing to the health and safety regulations which do not allow more than 250 people into the inquiry room.


[ image: Police struggle with Nation of Islam members]
Police struggle with Nation of Islam members
Police assaulted

A police spokeswoman has said that during the fracas a group from the militant black association, the Nation of Islam, broke through police lines and pushed their way into the inquiry. She claimed a chief inspector was assaulted.

"They were going towards the doors of Hannibal House," she said.

"A chief inspector was pushed to the floor by the Nation of Islam members. He was pushed to the floor and was being assaulted by seven or eight of them. Several other police officers were also assaulted, two were pushed on to the floor while the chief inspector was being kicked."

She confirmed that CS spray was used on the protesters during the commotion.

"The use of CS spray was obviously unfortunate but was essential in restoring public order at this stage. One CS spray canister was discharged."

The police have confirmed that two people have been arrested.

Suresh Grover, co-ordinator of the Stephen Lawrence Family campaign, said that four people were taken to hospital suffering from the effects of CS spray and two people had been arrested.

Nation of Islam spokesman

Leo Muhammad, spokesman for the Nation of Islam, has given his version of events.

He said that members of the militant groups had left the chamber to help quell unrest from members of the public outside who could not get in.

But, having done that they were not allowed to return to the inquiry chamber.

Mr Muhammad said: "We had agreed to go outside. But when we tried to come back in the police were there with batons. The police started to push us, so we pushed through the door."



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