Trans Writes has received multiple corroborating reports of violence towards the protesters from police, including the use of pepper spray, on Saturday.

The violence took place outside of a conference hosted by a “gender critical” campaign group accused of promoting conversion therapy – the “Clinical Advisory Network on Sex and Gender” (CAN-SG).

A Telegraph article on the protest reports that protesters had been “blocking the entrance” and that police were required to “prevent demonstrators gaining entrance” to the building.

The article also reports comments by Elaine Miller stating that protesters were “aggressive.” Miller is a member of CAN-SG—the group organising the conference—but is described by the Telegraph only as an “attendee” and “physiotherapist.” The Telegraph highlights that the protesters let off smoke bombs (a common sight at protests) and that one protester was holding a sign that said “trans power.”

The article includes a statement from the Metropolitan Police stating that “no reported injuries or damage” occurred. Sources present outside the conference told Trans Writes that the vast majority of the protest was peaceful.

According to accounts shared with Trans Writes, police were initially aggressive towards protesters when attempting to clear space for attendees to enter the conference.

However, police violence against the trans rights protesters continued even after protesters had been cleared from the entrance.

Later, during a noise protest – a form of protest where participants make a lot of noise – the police attempted to make arrests. It was at this point that protesters were pepper sprayed, and left with visible injuries

One person who was attacked with pepper spray told Trans Writes their account of what happened:

“I got hit directly in the eyes by the pepper spray – it was after a surge by the cops, I think the third attempt to break into the crowd with a snatch squad. 

“I wasn’t on the frontline, but I noticed a cop raising his hand high and seconds later the spray hit my eyes and the pain was shocking. I recoiled, coughing, fell to the floor clutching my face and screaming. 

“People washed my eyes out with a tonne of water (I could just about see out of my left eye), after 5 minutes I was picked up and taken to where several other people were being treated with saline solution. Luckily, people looked out for one another.

“While it’s not news that cops protect fascists, the use of pepper spray was something I hadn’t at all anticipated.”

Reporters from What The Trans—a UK-based news outlet for the trans community—were present at the event. In their coverage, they noted that one protester was “hauled away by their arms and legs” before being “patted down” by police.

Although the police were witnessed grabbing multiple people, as well as apparently making arrests, the Metropolitan Police told Trans Writes that no arrests were made.

This is not the first time that bystanding trans protesters have been injured by the Metropolitan Police during their violent arrest attempts. Last year, protesters were seriously injured by the police in this way, as well as by members of far right organisations, during a far right demonstration outside of a Drag Queen Story Hour event at a pub in Honor Oak, London.

What The Trans also reported that police continued to follow protesters, even after they had dispersed.

The Network for Police Monitoring has condemned the “shameful police violence” at the protest.

In a thread calling for the conference to be cancelled, Trans Safety Network described the event as “run by conversion therapists and anti-trans activists”, linking to some of the organisers’ previous activities.

The day before the conference, the Clinical Advisory Network on Sex and Gender complained that Youtube had flagged their channel as containing “conversion therapy content”, stating it was “unequivocally opposed to conversion therapy”.

The CAN-SG website features numerous posts opposing a “so-called conversion therapy” ban, on the basis that such bans might criminalise “exploratory therapies”, which the CAN-SG and several of its members promote. This month, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights identified in a report on human rights and gender identity that such “explorative” therapies “fundamentally have the same objectives as conversion practices”.

Although hosted by an organisation that presents itself as “a coalition of clinicians”, with the conference focusing on “critical perspectives on sex & gender in healthcare”, it also included speakers with seemingly no relevant medical expertise whatsoever.

For example, one speaker was a “parent campaigner” who runs a campaign against inclusive Sex Education in Brighton – PSHEBrighton.

Her campaign’s free WordPress blog claims that teaching children “details about sex” can make “indelible imprints on their brain patterns” (no citation for this claim is provided). The website emphasises that children must be taught about the “familial patterns that have kept British society stable for generations” rather than allowing children to be “abandoned and taught in an unprotected sea of confusing and dangerous ideas concerning sexual identity and educated in alternative family structures whose viability and sustainability are yet to be proven [sic]”.

In response to complaints about its hosting of the conference, the Royal College of General Practitioners explained that an independent events company lets out its headquarters. The RCGP stated it “had no involvement with the organisation of this conference and have not endorsed its content”. The RCGP also noted that it understood how “any association with the event, even inadvertently” had called its “commitment to inclusion and to the care of [its] LGBTQ+ members and patients into question”.

However, it said the event would go ahead, due to concerns that “the College would be at risk of being faced with a claim for breaching the Equality Act” – presumably on the basis of alleged discrimination against “gender critical” beliefs – if it cancelled the booking.