Student protesters today claimed police officers were heavy-handed with them as they were arrested during anti-war demonstrations in York city centre.

Three University of York students were taken into custody for obstruction offences as they rallied with more than 150 demonstrators on Ouse Bridge and Skeldergate roundabout yesterday.

They claim they were trying to disperse other protesters before they were arrested, leaving one of them suffering bruising.

But Superintendent Javed Ali, of York Police, said today that he had no knowledge of any complaints against the officers.

He added that any formal complaint would be vigorously investigated.

He said: "The safety of the public is paramount. Everyone has a right to freedom of speech and I am not aware of any complaints."

York police chiefs have drawn up contingency plans and spoken with education leaders in anticipation of any similar protest today.

University students Sam Southgate, Jon Maunder and Rob Wotherspoon were held in the cells for three hours before being released after receiving police cautions.

Sam, 20, said he intended to make a formal complaint and claimed that the police were "physically very hard" leaving bruises on his back.

He said: "I am quite annoyed really because it was a peaceful protest. The police said they were going to arrest people occupying the road and I was trying to tell people to leave when officers jumped on me."

Council worker Catherine Robson emailed the Evening Press about the incident. She said: "The man arrested was in my opinion unlawfully arrested and with more force than necessary."

She added: "At the time of the arrest he was merely speaking over a loudspeaker asking fellow protesters to move back towards Clifford's Tower.

"The police knelt on his head in the course of the arrest. Considering he was actively encouraging peace and being no threat to himself or anybody else I found the whole incident disgraceful."

Rory Palmer, of York Students Against the War, said: "The manner in which they made arrests was unbelievable."