More details about the protest outside a New Cross Assembly meeting, which led to an arrest, damage to a council officer’s car and a councillor spat at, have emerged.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands residents inside the meeting voiced concerns about the abrupt departure of Lewisham Council’s chief executive Ian Thomas, and the eviction of campaigners from the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden.

But protestors who remained outside the meeting allegedly threw beer bottles and tomatoes, and disrupted the meeting by banging on the doors and windows.

A 25-year-old man was arrested at the scene and issued with a penalty notice for disorder.

Protestors reportedly barricaded the fire exits using bins and wheelbarrows and one councillor was spat at.

Residents attending the meeting at the Mulberry Centre in Amersham Vale were also targets of verbal abuse.

Cllr James Rathbone witnessed the activity outside the meeting on Tuesday, while working from the building next to the Mulberry Centre.

He said the protest was initially “normal,” but the mood changed with the arrival of councillors for New Cross, Cllr Joe Dromey and Cllr Brenda Dacres.

“They [protestors] started screaming and [later] a senior officer at the council had their car set upon,” he said.

Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan, who arrived on foot, was also surrounded by protestors when he arrived, Mr Rathbone said.

He said the actions were removed from the “normal, legitimate” protest which often takes place outside the Lewisham Council office.

“The transition happened very quickly. It went from being a normal protest to something else.

“It became less about the Tidemill Garden and just became anti-council, anti-capitalist. All the fire exits had been blocked to make sure Damien had to go out the front,” he said.

“A lot of what was being screamed did not have to do with the garden. Someone screamed at me ‘tear off that poppy you capitalist pig’ which stuck in my mind,” he said.

“We are obviously used to protests at the council, [but not people] physically trying to assault Damien and council officers,” he said.

“I also saw when Joe came out they were trying to get at him but it was dark so couldn’t see their faces and most of them were wearing hoods.”

Cllr Dromey was surrounded by protestors, allegedly pushed and had beer cans thrown at his head, and was later driven away from the site by police.

Cabinet member for housing Cllr Paul Bell said he had not known councillors and council staff to be the target of abuse on this level since the 2010 budget cuts.

“In a democratic society we shouldn’t be having that level of violence and intimidation,” he said.

“Council staff are just doing their job. They are not political. They are asked to engage with local residents and get local views and a council officer’s car was set upon.

“There is an equalities issue in that people don't know what people’s circumstances are. They don’t know if they have got a disability or mental health issues.

“Whether elected or not, they don’t know people’s life story. It is not how Lewisham does things,” he said.