Water cannons used against rioters are a "lethal weapon" and should not be introduced in London, a German pensioner blinded by one of the machines has warned.
Dietrich Wagner, 69, who was hit full in the face by water one of the cannons at an environmental protest in Stuttgart, says Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe was making a "big mistake" backing the plans.
Wagner, who was greeted with wild applause as he got up to speak, called on London's representatives to "stop the nonsense".
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE BELOW
Wagner, after he was injured by the water cannon
"The use of water cannon is akin to the breakdown of the democratic process. I strongly urge the Mayor of London, Theresa May and London's police not to introduce this weapon."
Speaking at a demonstration outside City Hall before the public consultation on the measure, held last night, Wagner said he was told by doctors he was "one second" from being killed by the powerful blast from a machine, which tore his eyelids and broke his eye sockets.
The Metropolitan Police believe water cannons would be a useful tool to quell disorder like the London riots of 2011.
Wagner, whose trip to the UK was funded by a crowdfunding campaign, told the Evening Standard: “It would be money wasted on something very dangerous. There might be an argument for them being used if things turned violent, but my worry is police will use them for peaceful protests. Once they use them once it will be much easier to use them again.
“Ever since I was hit my life has drastically changed. I can’t drive, go shopping, read or do any of the things I used to do. My message is police need to be aware that they are not just a big shower, they are lethal weapons and do serious bodily harm.”
London Mayor Boris Johnson has backed plans for a £200,000 spend on three second-hand German water cannons - but needs approval from the Home Secretary Theresa May.
The London Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Friday to reject the £200,000 plan. Those against the proposal include key Conservatives Kit Malthouse, the former deputy mayor for policing, Victoria Borwick, deputy mayor, Roger Evans, the Assembly deputy chairman and James Cleverly, the chairman of the London fire authority. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens all oppose the plan.
But police say it is important to buy the machines ahead of any further disorder this coming summer.
Speaking at last night's meeting, Met Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said: “Water cannon are there to exert control from a distance and try and create a safe space to hold back rioters and violent disorder from police officers who are trying to protect the public or people from mass destruction.”
A Change.org petition opposing the cannons, which had 35,000 signatures, was handed in at the public meeting.
Home Office Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach said the government was considering if water cannons "may be of use in future in tackling the most serious disorder".
"The home secretary will make a decision on the use of water cannon when she receives the authorisation package from Chief Constable David Shaw and at that time she will consider the factors," he said.
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