HuffPost UK Journalist Owen Bennett Spat On At Conservative Party Conference

Police Step In As Journalist Spat At Outside Tory Conference

Police intervened to protect journalists today after they were spat at and verbally abused by demonstrators on the anti-Government protests at the Tory party conference.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady condemned the "unacceptable" treatment of Huffington Post UK report Owen Bennett and the Daily Telegraph's Kate McCann after they were sworn at and surrounded in Manchester city centre.

One protester spat at Bennett and others yelled "scum" at both journalists, amid what was a largely peaceful afternoon of demonstration.

The pair, who are among the media covering the conference in Manchester, say they had to be led away by police after a protester spat in Bennett's face and "hordes" of others surrounded them shouting that he "deserved it".

In a video which can be viewed above, Bennett relayed his shock and anger, while a crowd can be heard shouting "boo" and "shame on you".

McCann, a senior political correspondent at The Telegraph, said the pair were initially told to stay where they were as one police officer feared they would get "lynched" if they moved.

Police then escorted both journalists away from the "mob", Bennett tweeted.

McCann said her "heart is beating so hard I can see it through my dress."

We've been led out in a group of police into the hotel. Protesters pointing and shouting scum at me and @owenjbennett throughout.

— Kate McCann (@KateEMcCann) October 4, 2015

A Channel 4 journalist also claims he was spat on as he tried to enter the event.

Some 80,000 people are thought to be protesting against Tory austerity measures in Manchester today during the conference, with many wearing pig masks in reference to the allegations about David Cameron from an unnamed source in a book by Lord Ashcroft.

Some delegates entering the conference were also met with cries of "scum", though there have been no other reports of aggressive behaviour from the other thousands of protesters.

Frances O'Grady, the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, tweeted that the abuse of Bennett and McCann was "inexcusable".

What happened to @owenjbennett and @KateEMcCann today was inexcusable. Journalists must be allowed to do their jobs. #No2Austerity

— Frances O'Grady (@FrancesOGrady) October 4, 2015

McCann tweeted that a man who allegedly spat at Bennett had been handcuffed by police, but protesters called out for the man to be released, shouting that the HuffPost UK journalist "deserved it".

Bennett claims that the protesters continued to abuse the journalists despite being told that they were members of the media who were reporting on the conference, rather than delegates.

He said he was angry and "a bit shaken" after the episode.

He told HuffPost UK: "No one - regardless of who they are or who they work for - deserves to be spat at when they are doing their job.

"It was disgusting and I have no idea why he did it.

"What was even more worrying were the protestors who surrounded me and Kate McCann from the Telegraph. Even when they were told we were journalists and nothing to do with the Conservative Party, people were telling me I still deserved to be spat on.

"This is a worrying development and it seems the abuse journalists receive online is now moving out and on to the streets.

"I really hope people stop and think about the way this is going."

Channel 4 News political correspondent Michael Crick also tweeted that he had been spat on at the entrance to the conference, and called "Tory scum".

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