Man, 28, arrested after police officers injured at Manchester United protest

3 May 2021, 19:00

A man has been arrested following clashes with the police outside Old Trafford on Sunday
A man has been arrested following clashes with the police outside Old Trafford on Sunday. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A 28-year-old man has been arrested after six police officers were injured during violent clashes at a fan protest outside Manchester United's stadium on Sunday.

Roughly 100 fans stormed the pitch at Old Trafford prior to United's home Premier League game against Liverpool, which was later postponed.

One officer suffered a fractured eye socket and another a facial wound after bottles, cans and barriers were hurled at them, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said.

However, the constabulary did not confirm the offence the man had been arrested on suspicion of.

GMP said it was "reviewing all obtainable evidence" to identify the organisers of the demonstration and those responsible for assaulting officers.

Man United supporters inside and outside the stadium expressed their anger at the club's American owners - the Glazer family - during the demonstrations.

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GMP assistant chief constable Nick Bailey, said: "The behaviour shown at this protest was absolutely atrocious.

"Officers were just trying to do their job and facilitate a peaceful protest, however a number of those present became hostile and aggressive towards officers and forced entry to the football grounds, making it very clear that this protest was not peaceful and ruining it for the majority of protesters who had not intended for the protest to become violent."

The officer who sustained an eye injury - who has roughly 20 years of experience - was "lucky not to lose his sight", Greater Manchester Police Federation said after he suffered a significant slash wound to the face.

He has not yet been named but remains in "lots of pain" and will need an extended period off work to recover, according to the organisation, which represents the force's rank-and-file.

Stu Berry, chairman of the federation, said: "Our brave colleague went to work yesterday to keep the people of Greater Manchester safe - and he ended up coming under attack. He is incredibly lucky not to have lost the sight in an eye.

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"This is not right. Police officers are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and partners. They are sons and daughters. They are human beings who should be able to go home to their families in one piece at the end of their shifts. Not be rushed to hospital.

"We are offering support to our injured colleague and will continue to do so as he recovers from his injuries."

Mr Berry added that police officers need better equipment to protect themselves during demonstrations in light of violent scenes at previous protests in London and Bristol in recent weeks.

He said: "Our officers must be properly protected and appropriately equipped with public order gear - including helmets and shields - when policing these protesters."

Outside the ground, injuries were inflicted as a group began hurling bottles and barriers at officers and horses.

National Police Federation chairman John Apter said the violence should be condemned in "the strongest possible terms" by football pundits, clubs and players.

"Yet again we've seen a so-called peaceful protest turn to violence with that aimed at my colleagues. Officers were injured and required hospital treatment. This is completely unacceptable," he added.

Police said that by late Sunday afternoon, around 200 protesters had gathered outside The Lowry theatre and more than 1,000 at the stadium.

Firecrackers were let off outside the ground as protesters marched towards the Munich Tunnel with green and yellow smoke filling the air.

Red fences put in front of the East Stand failed to hold supporters back as the handful of stewards were swiftly overcome and barriers toppled.

The match, which was set to kick off at 4:30pm, was postponed due to safety and security fears and will take place on a date yet to be confirmed.

Manchester United said it will "work with the police to identify those involved in criminal activity, and will also issue its own sanctions to any season ticket holder or member identified, per the published sanctions policy".

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said there was "no excuse for the actions of a minority who injured police officers and endangered the safety of others".

Following the protest, the Premier League said it understood the fans' "strength of feeling", but condemned "all acts of violence, criminal damage and trespass, especially given the associated Covid-19 breaches".

The Football Association said it is also investigating.

United were among 12 clubs that signed up for the breakaway Super League last month before it collapsed within 48 hours due to huge opposition.