Manchester United fans who resorted to violence against police at protests which saw the Old Trafford club’s clash with Liverpool postponed have been slammed.
According to Manchester Evening News, two officers were injured, including one who was attacked with a bottle and required emergency hospital treatment for a ‘significant’ slash wound to his face.
The Greater Manchester Police Federation – the body which represents rank and file officers – has demanded those responsible are brought justice. It has also called for a review of the policing operation.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham condemned the violence and urged fans to ‘keep the focus on the behaviour of those at the top of the game’.
Several hundred fans gathered at The Lowry hotel where United players were staying on Sunday with thousands at Old Trafford as part of protests against the Glazer family’s ownership and running of the club.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said demonstrators outside the ground became ‘especially aggressive and antagonistic towards police’ before a group of around 100 forced entry to the stadium.
Flares were let off and missiles were launched at officers including bottles and metal barriers, they added.
Officers had to be drafted in from neighbouring forces as part of the response before the match, due to kick-off at 4.30pm, was eventually called off for ‘safety reasons’.
A picture later emerged showing the extent of the injury the officer suffered to his face after being slashed.
Mr Burnham said he understood fans’ concerns, but said there was ‘no excuse’ for the ‘minority’ who resorted to violence as he backed the decision to postpone the match.
In a statement last night, he said: “I fully understand the long-standing concerns of Manchester United supporters about both the ownership and financing of their club and the wider running of football.
These concerns have been building for a long time and it is essential that those running the club and the game listen to them.
“It is important to make clear that the majority of supporters made their protest peacefully today.
“However, there is no excuse for the actions of a minority who injured police officers and endangered the safety of others.
“I send my best wishes to the police officers who have been hurt in the course of their duties this afternoon.
“This could be an important moment to change football for the better.
“We should all condemn violence of any kind and keep the focus on the behaviour of those at the top of the game.”
Stu Berry, chairman of Greater Manchester Police Federation, said: “We witnessed appalling scenes this afternoon – police officers are not punchbags for people protesting for their cause.
“I don’t think there’s a football fan out there who doesn’t support peaceful protest in favour of our national game.
“However, the minority who have soured those efforts with mindless violence against our colleagues must be identified and prosecuted for their actions today.
“Our thoughts are with our injured officers this evening and we hope the media can give our members the recognition they deserve.
“At the end of their shifts, hard-working police officers should be able to go home to their families in one piece. Not be rushed to hospital” he added.
“We will be seeking a review of today’s operational risk assessment and public order resources on behalf of our members.”
Following the protest , Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson said: “The behaviour displayed today by those at both Old Trafford and The Lowry Hotel was reckless and dangerous” as he confirmed an investigation into what happened was now underway.
“We understand the passion many supporters have for their team and we fully respect the right for peaceful protest,” he said.
“Plans were in place to ensure this could happen safely, but it soon became clear that many present had no intention of doing so peacefully.