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This month (November 2022), 39 defendants ranging in age from 15 to 52, have appeared before the courts to be sentenced for their roles in a protest which turned to violence last year, with a further two having been sentenced in the summer.
On Sunday 2nd May 2021, large groups of people protesting about the ownership of their football club, began to gather at Old Trafford and outside the Lowry Hotel in Salford.
GMP were aware of the protest and plans were put in place to keep the public safe. However, it soon became clear as the group grew in size, that large numbers of protesters were not intending to protest peacefully and were instead there to cause trouble.
Protesters started to become aggressive and antagonistic towards GMP officers, before one group forced entry to the pitch and rooms within the Old Trafford stadium. Officers were assaulted with bottles, flares and safety barriers.
With the situation increasing in hostility, additional officers were deployed to the scenes and the crowds were finally dispersed.
36 officers were assaulted in total, with one officer receiving a serious facial injury requiring treatment in hospital. Stadium stewards and security staff were also assaulted.
Damage caused inside the stadium exceeded £70,000, including £60,000 worth of damage to TV cameras owned by a private company.
The offences that the 41 men were sentenced for include assault, criminal damage and burglary with many receiving football banning orders, preventing them from attending matches for a set period of time.
Assistant Chief Constable Wasim Chaudhry, said: “GMP’s Major Investigation Team (MIT), launched an extensive investigation relating to the disorder, following up on a large number of enquiries and intelligence received from public appeals, as well as extensive CCTV analysis and identification work, to make sure these people were located and made to face the consequences of their appalling actions that day.
“Our officers put their lives on the line every day to keep the people of Greater Manchester safe, and it is absolutely shameful that anyone would willingly assault an emergency worker. We simply will not tolerate this happening.
"This incident also happened in the midst of the pandemic, when our emergency services were already stretched trying to reach those who needed us the most.
“I hope these people feel ashamed of their actions and have some sense of remorse. I would like to add that GMP are fully aware that the majority of football supporters act in a respectful manner, and we thank those people.
“We want to see the public out supporting their teams and having an enjoyable experience and our dedicated football officers work closely with our local clubs, partner agencies and supporter groups to promote this happening”.
Chief Constable Mark Roberts, National Police Chief Council (NPCC) Lead for Football Policing, said: “This was a major investigation by GMP into serious disorder. It underlines the draw on police resources to undertake these investigations in addition to the operational deployments required on the day.
“This should serve as a warning to those who can’t behave at football matches, regardless of the reason.”
Another two defendants are due to appear before the courts in December 2022 and April 2023.