HC Deb 11 March 1920 vol 126 cc1552-3W

asked the Home Secretary whether those present at the large demonstration the other day of ex-service men from Woolwich were asked by the police authorities to stand steady and await the verdict of their deputation; whether, when those composing the demonstration arrived at Westminster Bridge, the police were already lined up with truncheons drawn, and were at one" given the order to charge; whether the constable at the head of the police on that occasion invited any of the leaders of the ex-service men to talk the matter over before the police charged: and whether it was made clear to those composing the demonstration that such a discussion had taken place?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The Superintendent in Charge asked the leading Marshal of the procession to stop where he was on the Westminster Bridge Road until the deputation returned from the Prime Minister's Office. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative. When the demonstration arrived at Westminster Bridge a line of police was formed to prevent any crowd approaching the House of Commons, but no action was taken by the police and no truncheons were drawn until the mob had charged the police a second time, under cover of a barrage of missiles, namely, tumblers and glass bottles. As regards the remainder of the question, the promoters of the procession were told on the previous Friday at Woolwich that the procession would not be allowed to approach the House of Commons, and the leading Marshal was again warned to that effect on the day of the procession in the Old Kent Road. The Chief Constable on duty himself conducted the deputation returning from Downing Street through the crowd to one of the vans, which was used as a platform. While the deputation was haranguing the crowd from a cart the crowd broke away and charged the police. There was no question of the police charging, except in self-defence.