POLICE have come in for criticism after officers were filmed “manhandling” a homeless person, as part of a crackdown on rough sleepers.

Shot by a pedestrian on Tuesday afternoon in Southend High Street, the video shows the man sitting down and drawing, before officers drag him away to be relocated.

The eyewitness, a member of the Homeless Street Hub and Soup Kitchen in Southend, described the scene as “harrowing” and the police engagement “unwarranted”.

But Essex Police maintained it was well within its rights to move the man on, claiming he’d been found unlawfully selling goods and asking people for money.

The 28-year-old mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “I was in Santander Bank when I suddenly heard all of this commotion and shouting outside, so I rushed out there.

“There were these three police officers stood over a homeless guy who was just drawing a picture, they were towering over him and wouldn’t leave him alone.

“They suddenly picked him up and dragged him off while he protested he wasn’t doing anything wrong - it was shocking.

“It was harrowing and completely unwarranted.”

The video attracted scores of sympathetic comments on Facebook, with residents announcing plans to stage a sit down protest on Saturday morning in support of the man. The force stated the day-long clampdown, in partnership with Southend BID Street Rangers, was part of a wider strategy to help those on the streets.

In a statement by Essex Police and Southend BID, a spokesman added: “The intention is not to criminalise individuals, but instead to ensure a partnership approach is adopted in an effort to best support the individuals. In this instance, the gentleman was not arrested. He was escorted off the High Street and taken to another location of his choosing.”