Mark Field has been suspended from his role as Foreign Office minister for Asia and the Pacific while his conduct is investigated by the police, the Cabinet Office and the Conservative Party. The Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster grabbed a Greenpeace activist and pushed her first into a pillar, then away by the neck at an event in London Mansion House.
Last night 40 Greenpeace activists disrupted Chancellor Philip Hammond’s speech at an annual meal for MPs and bankers at London Mansion House. The activists wore formal attire to match that of the attendees and sashes emblazoned with messages urging action to counter the climate crisis. Hammond noted during his speech, following the entrance of the protestors ‘that this is the government that has just led the world by committing to a zero carbon economy by 2050’. However, activists are unimpressed, with Extinction Rebellion demanding this occur by 2025.
In this longer version of the video, you can see the woman apparently posing no immediate threat as she passes behind Mark Field. He marches her out of the room by her neck. I wasn’t there, so I can’t say she didn’t pose a risk, but it looks heavy handed. pic.twitter.com/zX2BtcPW4t
— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) June 20, 2019
The video above captures a peaceful Greenpeace activist posing no threat to Conservative MP Mark Field. Therefore, his violent and enraged response does appear uncalled for and an explanation of self-defence is questionable. The other attendees at the elite event appear not to be shocked by Field’s behaviour, although ITV political correspondent Robert Peston reports that a friend of Mr Field seated close to him felt the action ‘seemed wholly disproportionate’. Recalling the incident, the MP has claimed that his reaction to the protest was driven by a fear that the activists may have been armed:
As a result I grasped the intruder firmly in order to remove her from the room as swiftly as possible. I deeply regret this episode and unreservedly apologise to the lady concerned for grabbing her but in the current climate I felt the need to act decisively to close down the threat to the safety of those present.
A couple of months ago Field wrote a letter in response to the Extinction Rebellion protests in London, calling upon the Met Police to take ‘a much firmer grip on climate change protesters’. Some Conservative MPs have leapt to Field’s defence, citing the hostility and violence that has been aimed at politicians in recent years. It was only three years ago that the Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered during the EU referendum campaign. However, it must be noted that that was carried out by an armed fascist and the environmental protest at Mansion House was entirely non-violent. Claire Perry, the Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, took to Twitter to voice her fear of Extinction Rebellion activists and concern at the lack of security at the London Mansion House event.
I have been on the receiving end of extinction rebellion protests – intimidating and relentless. Multiple security guards protected me but incredible so little security last night. @MarkFieldUK was absolutely right to act as he did.
— Claire Perry (@claireperrymp) June 21, 2019
The Greenpeace activist Janet Barker who was grabbed by the Conservative MP has said that she didn’t expect such an ‘over the top’ reaction. Barker knew there would be resistance to the protest; however, she expected only to have her path blocked or be engaged in conversation. In an interview with the BBC since, Barker described herself as only armed with science and leaflets.
Dawn Butler, Labour’s Women and Equalities spokesperson has spoken out against Mark Field, calling for him to be suspended or sacked for ‘violence against women’.
This is horrific. Conservative Foreign Office Minister Mark Field violently grabs a woman as she protests about climate change at the bankers’ banquet.
— (((Dawn Butler MP))) (@DawnButlerBrent) June 20, 2019
A petition calling for Mark Field to be sacked had garnered over 19,000 signatures by midnight on 21st June while following growing criticism, the MP referred himself to the Cabinet Office for investigation.