Did police brutality kill Ian Tomlinson and do we care?

April 11, 2009

. . . . . The answers are yes and yes. It matters that we know and that the police and government know that we are not prepared to tolerate any more abuses of our lives and liberties. Avaaz.org, with whom Thus is not affiliated but thoroughly admires, have launched a petition, which I hope you will sign.

Paul Hilder of Avaaz.org believes peaceful protests can change the world. My heart says he’s right but how would Gandhi have fared in Britain today? 2 million protested in the UK alone against the Iraq war in 2003 and Britain still participated in an illegal war. Tibetan human rights protesters were kettled and cudgelled when the Chinese Premier came to pick up a few tips on human rights from Blair and when Brown slavered over the Olympic flame. On the other hand, a few hundred berserkers trashed buildings in central London in the infamous 1990 Poll Tax riots and defeated Margaret Thatcher. More recently Thai protesters demanding the resignation of the current Prime minister succeeded in disrupting the Summit of South East Asian nations in Pattaya. Without in any way condoning their actions or motives – whether or not the current Thai Prime Minister is democratically elected (like the UK Prime Minister he isn’t) anyone who wants to see the return of the clearly corrupt former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra needs some sort of re-education – but they wrecked nine months of careful preparation and gave the Chinese premier, amongst others, a glimpse of unfettered people power in action. Clearly that’s what the Powers That Be fear most. The British police and security services demonstrably would not have let this happen. The question is, how far are we prepared to sacrifice democratic principles and practices in the name of preserving a status quo which is taking on a very unpleasant shape? It is undeniable that the UK in particular has seen a totalitarian drift towards the banning, stifling and disruption of peaceful protests, ironically during the period of ‘New’ Labour ‘liberal’ democracy, which is now looking like New Stalinism, complete with its very own NKVD.

The London G20 summit saw non-violent pressure by hundreds of thousands of citizens on a number of topics. The City of London protests immediately before the summit were rowdy, but still overwhelmingly peaceful despite media hysteria, aggressive policing and a handful of troublemakers. Bystander and father of nine Ian Tomlinson died that day (Thus passim). Video footage shows that he was struck down by a masked, baton-wielding policeman. Many police wore balaclavas or took off their identification numbers. By telling the media before the protests that they were ‘up for it’ if violence ensued, commanding officers whipped up dangerous hysteria. The police denied responsibility, and although they have now identified and suspended the officer who struck the blows, none of the group in the video footage came forward voluntarily, and police statements contained patent falsehoods which were ironically only revealed on camera. As well as constraining rights of assembly, new laws now supposedly prohibit taking the very photos and videos of police officers which have begun to reveal the truth of these events.

The ramifications of the Tomlinson affair, along with the patent disarray of the Met Police on a number of other matters, are echoing across the world. Apart from the fact that he was neither an agitator nor a demonstrator, comparisons can be drawn with the case of Blair Peach, a New Zealander who died in a London demonstration as a result of police brutality in the 1970s. Tellingly, nobody was held accountable at that time. No officer was convicted or even lost their job as a result of the Menezes shooting at Stockwell station, and the security services are currently under a growing cloud for their part in rendition and torture of terrorist suspects. If this incompetent and crude suppression of centuries-old liberties continues, the entire British population is in danger of kettling. That’s why the Avaaz.org petition is important.

Follow this link to watch the video and sign the emergency petition to fix British policing of demonstrations. “Avaaz will deliver it directly to the Home Secretary, Parliament and the Metropolitan Police” – provided they don’t meet with an ‘accident’ along the way . . .