It seems that the Police may not have learnt anything after all from the Jean Charles de Menezes debacle. On the 1st of April, at around roughly 7pm, a local newspaper vendor, Ian Tomlinson, was viciously assaulted and knocked to the ground by a member of the Metropolitan Police. After being struck twice in the leg with a baton by a riot officer, he was then pushed with a great deal of force to the ground by the same officer. He had his hands in his pockets and therefore had no protection (or warning) prior to the assault.

The last image of Ian Tomlinson before his collapse and death
from a heart attack, shortly after his assault by riot police

Mr. Tomlinson was given no assistance from the riot officers, and received only cursory medical attention - he was subsequently helped up by bystanders, and The Guardian reports witnesses as saying that he stumbled away, "looking glazed." Mr. Tomlinson collapsed and died from a heart attack several minutes later.

(It seems that throughout the G20, the police's tactics usually defaulted to aggressiveness - see this Guardian article highlighting (with eye-witness videos) just how aggressive the police were against demonstrators, mostly peaceful ones at that. Very poignant viewing.)

The Met Police subsequently issued disingenuous press releases, falsely stating things such as how protesters prevented medics from giving Mr. Tomlinson medical attention. The Telegraph reports that,
"...the Metropolitan Police had released a statement last week after the death in which they said only that officers were pelted with bottles and other debris by protesters when they formed a circle as colleagues attempted to revive Mr Tomlinson.

"The IPCC said on Monday that Mr Tomlinson was blocked from passing through a police cordon as he attempted to walk home from work helping a newspaper vendor at Monument station."

In other circumstances, it is likely that not much attention would have been paid to this story. However, a New York fund manager who witnessed the events happened to videotape them as they unfolfed, almost entirely by chance (as well as a couple of photographers who captured the moments immediately after the assault).

The video clearly shows an unprovoked and vicious assault on an unarmed, non-threatening individual - who had his back turned to the riot officers and dog units, and was walking away from them. It also wholly discredits some of the misinformation the Police subsequently issued after news of the assault first came to light. (A local blogger, Hagley Road to Ladywood, has some comment and more insight into the events.)

The Guardian was supplied a videotape of the events, which it forwarded on to the IPCC - it has made both the footage and stills available on their web site. Please watch it, as the full force of the assault is not evident until you view the events in realtime (it really is quite astonishing). In a bit of cruel irony, on the Telegraph's web page detailing the Mr. Tomlinson's assault, there's a banner advert advertising the Home Office's "Justice Seen Justice Done" campaign. I'm not sure I want justice to be done if it results in innocent bystanders being assaulted.

Several witnesses, including a woman who was forcibly pushed away from Mr. Tomlinson after beginning to provide him with first aid, have spoken to IndyMedia and given detailed statements. Read them in full here: Peter Apps, a witness, had this to say:
Another demonstrator had already called 999 and was getting medical advice from the ambulance dispatcher. "Four police with two police medics came. They told her [the first aider] to 'move along'.", said Peter Apps.

"Then they pushed her forcibly away from him. They refused to listen to her [the first aider] when she tried to explain his condition."The first aider, who did not wish to be named, said "The police surrounded the collapsed man. I was standing with the person who'd called 999. The ambulance dispatcher wanted to talk to the police, the phone was being held out to them, but the police refused."
In the IPCC's latest press release, the IPCC Commissioner for London, Deborah Glass, has this to say:
“Initially we had accounts from independent witnesses who were on Cornhill, who told us that there had been no contact between the police and Mr Tomlinson when he collapsed. However, other witnesses who saw him in the Royal Exchange area have since told us that Mr Tomlinson did have contact with police officers. This would have been a few minutes before he collapsed. It is important that we are able to establish as far as possible whether that contact had anything to do with his death.”
The press release continues;

Just after 7pm on 1 April, Mr Tomlinson can be seen on CCTV walking up King William Street and approaching a police cordon opposite the Bank of England. It is believed he wanted to get through the cordon to continue his walk home from work. Police officers refused to let him through.

A short time later, Mr Tomlinson can be seen on CCTV walking around the corner into Royal Exchange Passage. A number of witnesses have described seeing him there, getting caught up in a crowd and being pushed back by police officers. This is the aspect of the incident that the IPCC is now investigating.

Minutes later he is seen on CCTV walking back onto Cornhill from Royal Exchange Passage. Mr Tomlinson walks for about three more minutes, before collapsing on Cornhill. The CCTV shows that Mr Tomlinson was not trapped inside a police cordon at any stage. Several members of the public state that they tried to help Mr Tomlinson. Others reported the incident to nearby police officers.

CCTV shows police officers forming a cordon around him near a group of protesters so that the police medics could give first aid. They then carried Mr Tomlinson on a stretcher through the Cornhill / Birchin Lane cordon and continued first aid. An ambulance then arrived and he was taken to hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival.

Unfortunately, the IPCC has launched a "managed investigation" into the events, which some have likened to, "a pissing stage managed investigation to protect the thug cops and satisfy the sheep." I am a cautiously more optimistic about how the investigation will pan out, but I am deeply saddened by the conduct and impropriety of the police to this point. It is very worrying that it only took the media 24 hours to receive word of Mr. Tomlinson's death - but it's taken more than a week for accurate facts surrounding his assault to be released.

Jenny Jones MP, a member of the Green Party, the Metropolitan Police Authority and the London Assembly, has spoken out against the actions of the police involved in this assault, not long after criticising the actions of the police as a whole during the G20 protests. Another Green Party member was an eye-witness to the events, and she was quoted in the Green Party's statement surrounding the events:
Meanwhile reports have continued to come in to the Green Party's central office from party members who were at the demonstration - including a report from a Manchester Green who watched as Ian Tomlinson died.

Gayle O'Donovan said today: "The behaviour of the police was the worst I have seen on any demonstration. Late in the evening we got a call from a friend trapped in the police cordon outside the Bank of England. He had been there for several hours in the heat with no water after receiving a head injury. We were concerned for our friend and others trapped in these conditions. We wanted to bring them water but the police, for reasons best known to themselves, would not allow us to give it out.

"A few minutes later we crossed the road and saw several medics begin CPR on a man lying on the ground. We later found out this to be Mr Tomlinson, the man who died. I certainly didn't see any of the paramedics being pelted with bottles or stones, as was reported by the police. "It was later divulged that Mr Tomlinson was on his way home from work and probably not a protester.

I believe he most likely became trapped due to police tactics on the day. The police were indiscriminate about who they corraled. They shut off an area trapping everyone inside. Parents and children, the elderly and passers-by can often get caught up."

Ms O'Donovan concluded, "The tactic's known as 'kettling' because of the effect it has on those enclosed - basically it raises the temperature and makes an outbreak of anger far more likely. It is a dangerous tactic that I think must now be investigated."

Personally, I cannot decide whether to let apoplexy take over or whether I should focus my anger on making as many people aware of these events as possible. I am deeply concerned by what has happened, as it appears to be an example of fundamental failures on behalf of the police, who we as a nation entrust with our protection and security. I originally considered the de Menezes events to be a tragic but accidental occurrence. However, taking into account the contradictory reports issued by the police after the death of Ian Tomlinson, and the manner in which they behaved during the assault, I am inclined to reconsider my opinion of both this and the de Menezes shooting. We do not live in a police state - why should someone like Mr. Tomlinson be treated with such indignity?

As reasonable, law-abiding citizens, we expect in return to all be treated with the same basic human rights - which includes not being aggressively assaulted from behind by a riot police officer for no apparent reason. Is this just the tip of the iceberg, the beginning of a long downward spiral towards ever-increasingly aggressive police tactics? I am extremely worried. The officer in question, their Force, and indeed the very people at the top at both ACPO and the Home Office deserve to be brought in front of a court of law and held responsible for their endemic failures of procedure.

Please tell everyone you can about this to raise public awareness. Retweet, repeat, forward emails, write blog articles. Contact your MP. I hope that in time, a concerted effort can bring more key witnesses forward to help further clarify the events surrounding Mr. Tomlinson's assault and death - and hopefully to blame for these events will be held responsible to the fullest extent of all relevant laws.


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