Police Brutality at G20 Continues a Long Tradition

The death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests in London as he was attempting to make his way home from work certainly demands a criminal investigation into the actions of the police, who from the video evidence that has thus far been made available to the public are clearly shown to have assaulted Mr Tomlinson just minutes before he collapsed and died of a heart attack.

The IPCC have already initiated their own investigation into the incident, but given the weight of eye witness testimony and video evidence of the actions of the police throughout the day, a public inquiry also needs to be initiated into the planning and implementation of the entire police operation that was mounted to deal with a day of protest that saw ugly scenes of protestors in confrontation with ranks of baton-wielding riot police, many of them with their faces covered, some on horseback, and others with dogs.

The use of the controversial police tactic of ‘kettling’ also needs to be looked at. Penning people in and refusing to allow them to leave or move freely for hours on end without either arresting or charging them with a crime is a clear violation of human rights. What is also a clear violation of human rights is arbitrarily pushing and assaulting people who are offering no physical resistance to police instructions, as in the case of Mr Tomlinson prior to him being assaulted from behind.

All of the aforementioned must be included in a wide ranging and thorough criminal investigation of the policing operation that was undertaken during the G20 protests.

But let’s be under no illusions. What happened on April 1 was no aberration. Nor should or can it be put down to one or two bad apples in police uniform. Simply put, the police in this country are a racist, reactionary, anti-working class institution which reflects the racist, reactionary, and anti-working class nature of the state in which we live.

Over the last twenty or so years there have been far too many incidents of abuse and police brutality to recount. Among them has been the use of torture to extract confessions from the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four during the height of the IRA’s armed struggle in the 1970s; the violence meted out against the miners during the strike of 1984; the racism surrounding the investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993; the heavy handed policing of the G8 protests in Scotland in 2005; the execution of Jean Charles de Menezes on the London underground in the wake of 7/7; and now the aggressive and violent policing of the G20 protests, resulting in a man caught up in them on his way home from work being assaulted by the police and subsequently losing his life.

Many of us will know people in the police and on this basis would seek to defend them as just ordinary people doing a difficult job.

Such a benign view, however, is both naïve and empirically false.

Yes, when off-duty your average police officer is just like any other member of society – spending time with his or her family, shopping, socialising with friends, etc. And, indeed, most of us have at one time or another been in need of the services of the police and will have had no complaints as a result of the experience, the police officer or officers concerned helpful and diligent in carrying out whatever the task may have been on our behalf.

Be that as it may, the police officer who comes to your home in response to a burglary or an incident of vandalism with a sympathetic ear and a commitment to your needs at that particular moment, is the same officer who when deployed to police a demonstration or a picket line will be ready, able, and willing to put a baton over your head.

Social being determines consciousness, and the primary role of the police in any capitalist society is that of a weapon in the hands of a state controlled by the few at the expense of the many.

The sheer immorality of the system which presently governs our lives is illustrated in the fact that criminal charges are to be brought against those who took it upon themselves to smash the windows of a branch of RBS during the G20 protests, yet the RBS executives responsible for bringing the system to the point of collapse, for people losing their homes, jobs, pensions, and savings are able to walk away with knighthoods and severance packages and pension settlements which are beyond obscene.

It will be scant comfort to the family of Ian Tomlinson to hear that the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has voiced her support for the IPCC investigation into his death. This, after all, is the minister responsible for policing on the day and throughout the country as a whole, responsible for continued attacks on civil liberties with her attempt to detain suspects without charge for up to 90 days, and the plan to introduce a central database to log all mobile phone and email traffic in the UK.

As with the judiciary, the political system, and the banking system, the police in this country are an institution that cannot be reformed. Indeed, as with every other institution, it reflects the brutality of the economic system it is designed to protect and uphold.

In a time of economic crisis such as now, with more and more people responding to attacks on their jobs and their communities with strike action and protests, it is likely that we can look forward to more not less incidents of police brutality on our streets such as were witnessed in London on April 1.

50 comments on “Police Brutality at G20 Continues a Long Tradition

  1. anyone who seriously believes that Mr Tomlinson wasn’t a bystander or just happened to be out and about on his way home is either a certified moron or an outright liar.

    Fixed that for you.

    Let’s not forget Liddle Towers, who died while in police custody (and inspired Angelic Upstarts to a song of the same name), or the guy whose name I’ve sadly forgotten who was shot dead for carrying a sawed off shotgu^table leg.

  2. anyone who seriously believes that Mr Tomlinson was a bystander or just happened to be out and about on his way home is either a certified moron or an outright liar.

    Like his family?

    I presume you know much more about the intentions and political beliefs of Ian Tomlinson than his wife and kids.

  3. sheffielder on said:

    Harry Stanley from Hackney was the guy with the semi-automatic table leg

  4. Faust on said:

    This is speculation on my part (I wasn’t there) but Ian Tomlinson may have made assumptions about living in a free country because he was NOT an anti-capitalist protestor or member of a left-wing or anti-establishment group. The politically engaged tend to shed illusions about the system and its police, so being “kettled” is not such a shock for them, though certainly not pleasant (it has happened to me on several recent occasions). But the discovery that he could not go where he wanted to go because the police were stopping him may have been more of a shock to Tomlinson than it would be to me. Perhaps he objected in some way, and some latter-day SS man in Met riot cop garb didn’t like anyone cutting up rough, and so lashed out at a defenceless man who had his back turned, judging from one picture.

    It is becoming more and more obvious that the thugs of the G20 were riot police and not demonstrators.

  5. JimL on said:

    “lashed out at a defenseless man who had his back turned, judging from one picture.”

    How had his hands in his pockets

    “It is becoming more and more obvious that the thugs of the G20 were riot police and not demonstrators.”

    This was one of the worst demonstrations I’d been on for over 20 years, the police were most definitely charged up; and I agree with the author’s sentiments and conclusion in its total entireness.

  6. Hugh on said:

    Poor old Ian T who both lived and worked in the City of London – why shouldn’t he walk on his local streets after a hard day’s work and a couple of pints. This is Britain isn’t it!

    Looking at the Guardian video I think focus should be placed on the cop wearing a peaked cap and handling a light coloured dog, who literally fingered Tomlinson before the recorded assault. Peaked cap in such circumstances often means senior officer. His intervention may have been perceived by a junior officer as licence to …

  7. JimL: “This was one of the worst demonstrations I’d been on for over 20 years, the police were most definitely charged up; and I agree with the author’s sentiments and conclusion in its total entireness.”

    I agree with that Jim. I have been on many demos over the years that have been attacked by the cops but last wk, on both the 1st and 2nd April, really sickened me and affected me (I did feel wired and emotionally overwhelmed at the same time by what I was witnessing, it was a grotesque level of violence and thuggery).. Out-of-control cops hitting people in such frenzied unprovoked attacks along with their tactic of ‘kettling’.

    I spoke to a couple of people, on the Thursday at the protest at Bank, who had been beaten up by the cops when they stormed the Climate Camp.

    Indeed there should be a public enquiry as I don’t hold out much hope of the toothless pathetic IPCC doing anything radical.

    And it seems the IPCC has identified the cop who attacked Ian Tomlinson.

  8. steve r on said:

    I am just glad that you a**h**les that complained about us Lefties (which you complainers are surely not!) that were sure the guy had been KiLLED by CoPS are totally wrong –
    not the first time, no doubt not the last!
    it’s worthless to say much else, other than
    whatever Ian Tomlinson was doing there he’s a HERO
    that’ll be recognised & honoured properly when we’ve disposed of capitalism
    (and i guess that’s WE, *not* you anti-anti-capitalistas)

  9. #10-13 Congratulations on deleting Ed D (aka Mike Clark)
    Can I make a plea to also start deleting #1 Kardinal Birkutzki? He’s also a troll from Harry’s Place, someone who is coming here with one intention only, to get a rise out of people, and so confuse, disrupt and destroy the discussion.

  10. terryfitz on said:

    Thanks for putting up the article about Blair Peach, unfortunately there was only one comment, from me. There have been a couple of developments since. Yesterday the Guardian published a letter from me about the whole affair in which I challenged Jaqui Smith and Paul Stephenson to release the whole of the Cass report from thirty years ago on the events of the 23 of April 1979 in Southall which led to Blair losing his life.

    I was also interviewed on Radio 4’s PM programme wher I said the same thing. After three decades of us feeling we were banging our heads against a brick wall I think things are beginning to happen. It will be very difficult now for either Smith or the Met to refuse to release the report and that should really open up a can of worms. It is important for pressure to be kept up though and I would ask everyone to e-mail the Home Office and the Met to ask for the publication of the report of Commander Cass into the death of Blair Peach to be released.

    Series of coincidences that make you think. From where I am typing this I can see the house that Blair left that morning to go to Southall and two minutes from my front door is the spot where Harry Stanley was shot. He had left the Alexandra pub at the junction of Victoria Pk Rdand Lauriston Rd with a table leg in a plastic bag. Someone phoned the police to say a man with an Irish accent had left the pub with a gun, he was in fact Scots, and ten minutes later he was dead.

  11. Green on Red on said:

    Yesterday’s Guardian had a map of Ian Tomlinson’s route, which is entirely consistent with him finishing work at 7pm and then trying to get back to the hostel where he lived, but being diverted by a series of police cordons.

    The trolls are out in force suggesting he was deliberately winding up the police by walking slowly. But the second piece of film, taken by an ITN cameraman, shows that the officer who attacked him with a baton was some distance from Mr Tomlinson and not standing immediately behind him. In any case, one witness claims that Mr Tomlinson had already been knocked to the ground and then hit twice by a baton BEFORE the filmed assault, so he was quite possibly in a state of extreme shock and not quite with it. In any case it is not yet a crime to walk slowly.

    More and more evidence is emerging of the police randomly battering anyone with their shields and batons, including city workers and journalists.

    Reformist demands which should be made are no more use of balaclavas to conceal the faces of cops, identification numbers prominently displayed on the fronts and backs of uniforms, and an end to kettling, which is nothing more than a crude and aggressive attempt to punish everyone who turns up for a protest march.

  12. Sectarian Watch on said:

    SU is now getting so embarrassed by having so many censored deleted Comments littering the place that the self-appointed committee has decided to remove all traces of deleted comments to avoid looking like the censorious control freaks they have become. Hilarious. This message will self-destruct in 10..9..8..7.. :-)

  13. #22 Self appointed committee?

    This is hilarious, Yes this is our web-site, we run it, we have editorial control. If you don’t like it, go and set up your own web-site.

    There is a difference between censorship and editorial coontrol. We are not preventing your right to free speech, we are just limiting waht you can say HERE.

    Incidently, we run a fairly liberal regime on comments, but in this case the trolls are deliberately insulting a dead man, reckless to whether they cause distress to his grieving friends and familly. That is unacceptable.

  14. John Wight on said:

    Andy is right. Trolls posting under pseudonyms have attempted to smear this man, which is an utter disgrace.

    As for Lenin, whilst I may disagree with his blog in many instances, his refusal to take any crap from trolls is to be commended.

  15. John Wight on said:

    I watched Ken Livingstone being interviewed on the death of Ian Tomlinson last night, during which he described the attack by the police officer as an unprovoked assault. He said that the officer involved, along with those officers present who’ve still to come forward (no doubt getting their story straight beforehand), should have been immediately suspended. He referred to the murder of Blair Peach during the interview, saying that whilst the Met has improved since the bad old days there still remained an element of the ‘canteen culture’ that needed to be weeded out. I find him an increasingly contradictory figure. The position he took over the De Menezes case remains for me hard to explain.

  16. Faust on said:

    # 29. It’s easy for me to explain, if I may be so bold. Livingstone is a system politician with some individualist tendencies. His reaction to De Menezes was system politics, particularly since all reason flies out the window when the word “terrorism” is mentioned. De Menezes also had rather dark skin.

    Ian Tomlinson was obviously harmless, white and “one of us” – an embarrassed Met and establishment, and a few drooling trolls who have popped up here, are struggling to depict a man who had his back turned and his hands in his pockets as a threat. Hence Livingstone’s different line.

  17. I agree with #30. To say that the political system or the banking system can not be reformed is just nonsense. The police too can be reformed through introducing independent police complaints commisions, elected Chief Constables, police acountability, and many other measures, if there is the political will.

  18. John Wight on said:

    Faust #31 – While I may agree with your line on his consciousness being influenced by his position, I don’t agree with the view that the colour of De Menezez’s skin in any way had a bearing on Ken Livingstone’s stance. One thing he has always been consistently is an anti-racist.

  19. Faust on said:

    I expect “Sectarian Watch”‘s comment to disappear shortly (bye-bye!), but it is worth noting that the police have not been acting like protestors are Wolfie Smiths, but some kind of threat (although I think they are exaggerating it for their own purposes). Ian Tomlinson died because riot cops do NOT see protestors in sit-com terms.

  20. John Wight on said:

    #32 – If you go down the line of disconnecting the institutions that govern the country from the economic system that have given rise to them, then, yes, you may well support reform as a solution. But the history of the police going back decades in this country suggests otherwise. I think the record proves that the police are racist and reactionary to the core. I have personal experience of that, as will most on the left, and it is inescapable that they are likely to become more reactionary in times of economic crisis than less.

  21. Faust on said:

    #33. Well perhaps De Menezes is an exception to Livingstone’s anti-racism. I forgot to mention he was also a foreigner. De Menezes is easier to depict as “the other” than Tomlinson is, and this may underline the different approach he has taken. I personally think Livingstone was quite vile on the De Menezes case.

  22. John Wight on said:

    #37 – No, I’m sorry I disagree with this line. Livingstone again has stood up against racism throughout his political career. I think with him it was more simply the case of him being influenced by the climate of fear and hostility that was present in the country at the time. Rather than take a principled stance, and place himself at odds with both the police and the government, he instead lapsed into following the line over the so-called War On Terror.

    I agree with you that the position he took was disgraceful.

  23. “I spoke to a couple of people, on the Thursday at the protest at Bank, who had been beaten up by the cops when they stormed the Climate Camp.

    Indeed there should be a public enquiry as I don’t hold out much hope of the toothless pathetic IPCC doing anything radical.

    And it seems the IPCC has identified the cop who attacked Ian Tomlinson.” Louise

    For the best part of a week I have been unable to shift from my own thoughts the sheer brutality that the old bill employed; or what seemed a along deliberate media campaign of propaganda, office workers being told to dress down, although it was not hard to spot them amongst the throng of people, most of whom did not seem to feel any threat towards their safety, of those I had the opportunity to speck with held out a degree of support, sympathy for the predicament that we all fined ourselves in because of this crisis of world capitalism. But the most disturbing was the unwarranted attack laid on the young people of the Climate Camp. On my way home I marveled at the wonderful rainbow of warmth generating from those young enough to be my own children and have no problem learningfrom them as an older man. For all the reports that I have since read about the violent used on them, what can I say; shame on the police and Brown – you make me sick, but the fight continues, victory towards a new world!

  24. Re the De Menezes case, Livingstone obviously took the view that Ian Blair was the best (i.e. most liberal) Chief Constable the Met was ever likely to get so he needed to be defended against all accusations, whatever he did.

  25. John Wight on said:

    Rory, I think you’re right. Blair was presiding over a concerted attempt to recruit more people from the various ethnic communities into the Met and I think Livingstone saw this as a major priority. Judging by what I witnessed outside the Israeli Embassy during the demonstrations against the assault on Gaza back in Jan, this attempt has thus far been a miserable failure.

  26. This is unbelievable from the Police Fed Chair on yesterday’s R4 Today programme:

    “Sometimes it isn’t clear, as a police officer, who is a protester and who is not. I know it’s a generalisation but anybody in that part of the town at that time, the assumption would be that they are part of the protest.I accept that’s perhaps not a clever assumption but it’s a natural one.”

    And there was I thinking it was about evidence and facts…

    So there you have it..protesters are fair game for a whack… What was Ian Tomlinson then, collateral damage?

    It reminds me as well when Michael Mansfield was cross-examing DAC John McDowall during the Jean Charles De Menezes inquest that a de Menezes:

    “I very much hope that this will never happen again. But at the same time, with human beings, it is entirelyfeasible that some such tragedy may occur again, with just the way that circumstances sometimes unravel themselves”.

    Bodes well…

  27. #38 “Livingstone again has stood up against racism throughout his political career.”

    Well, apart from anti-semitism, obviously.

  28. Faust on said:

    # 38. I have a less sanguine view of Livingstone. As I mentioned before, reason flies out the window when “terrorism” is mentioned, and Livingstone was not up to resisting the climate this created. He is, at the end of the day, a system politician.

    # 42. There is a sub-text there that if you’re a protester, then you are in some sort of free-fire zone as far as the authorities are concerned. A symptom of drip-feed fascism, perhaps?

  29. #29, John Wight re Livingstone.

    Unfortunately, I heard Ken about two weeks ago on R4 blandly defending the decision to hem in the May Day demonstrators (which included tourists and workers) for hours. Here he is now talking left while he acted right on the issue of legal protest when he was in power.

    The Mail is now smearing Tomlinson as a “homeless alcoholic” in defence of the police. If being pissed was a capital offence, Fleet Street would be empty and Ken would have been topped years ago.

  30. Faust on said:

    #46. Yes, exactly. Livingstone was no friend of the protestor when he was in power as mayor.

    As to the Daily Mail, well, that’s par for the course for them. It is becoming clear that Tomlinson was a working-class bloke who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and character assassination to justify or at least mitigate what happened to him is a weapon that the right-wing press are now trying to deploy.

  31. And there are further resonances – it appears from media reports today that the police who attacked Tomlinson were deployed from the STOCKWELL AREA (Union Road) POLICE HOLDING CENTRE – Jean Charles de Menezes rest in peace – some hopes.