The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 10th April 2009


by Daphne Liddle

LIBERAL Democrat MPs are demanding a full criminal inquiry into the death of Ian Tomlinson who died of a heart attack after being assaulted by the police during last week’s G20 protests in the City of London.

Tomlinson, a 47 year old newsagent, wasn’t a demonstrator. He was simply going home from work through police cordons and crowds of protesters when he was floored by riot police. The Guardian newspaper has obtained video footage of the attack showing Tomlinson being hit from behind by a partially-masked cop as he walked away from a police line with his hands in his pockets. It had been filmed by a New York hedge-fund manager who gave it to the paper after seeing an appeal for information from Tomlinson's family.

The film shows Tomlinson being brought down by a baton-wielding riot cop; being helped up by a protester and then arguing angrily with police officers.

A few moments after the film was taken Tomlinson got up and walked on then suddenly collapsed and died a few yards away outside the Bank of England.

Others eye-witnesses say that the assault caught on video was the second time that Tomlinson had been knocked to the ground by police. They say that Tomlinson had approached a police cordon, hoping to be allowed through because he had nothing to do with the protests, but that he was knocked to the ground and beaten by police.

The initial police reaction to his death was to claim that they had had no contact with Tomlinson and that protesters had prevented them from giving first aid as he lay collapsed on the pavement.

This brings back memories of Jean Charles de Menezes and suggests that the first reaction of police is to lie when a member of the public dies at their hands.

It had been a day full of demonstrations and protests throughout London around the G20 summit. Four marches, each led by a “horseman of the apocalypse” representing war, land seizure, financial crimes and climate chaos, had converged on London's financial centre.

Back in Westminster around 7,000 had supported the Stop the War protest at the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square and then marched to Trafalgar Square for a rally.

The anti-capitalist protests kicked off with the massive union-backed “Put People First" march on the eve of the G20 summit the previous Saturday. The bourgeois media and the police had hyped-up the fear of ‘anarchist’ violence. Tens of thousands of police were drafted into the capital and shopkeepers boarded up in preparation. But the day passed over with little violence and few arrests.

But on that fateful Wednesday the police decided to use a familiar tactic to discourage the demonstrators from future action. As the protesters started to make their way home the police forced them back into small enclaves where they were penned and forced to stand for hours with no access to food, water or toilets. Demonstrators started to verbally abuse the police. It was at this time that Ian Tomlinson began his fatal walk home.

After viewing the video of the police assault, Liberal Democrat Shadow Justice Minister David Howarth said the footage showed a “sickening and unprovoked attack”. He has called for the police officers involved to come forward.

The Guardian has collected a dossier of statements and photos, including the video footage that it intends to hand to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

It also includes a sequence of photographs, taken by three people, showing the aftermath of the attack, as well as eye-witness statements including time and date-stamped photographs which substantiate their accounts.

Anna Branthwaite, a photographer, described how in the minutes before the video was shot, she saw Tomlinson walking towards Cornhill Street.

“A riot police officer had already grabbed him and was pushing him,” she said. “It wasn't just pushing him – he’d rushed him. He went to the floor and he did actually roll. That was quite noticeable.

“It was the force of the impact. He bounced on the floor. It was a very forceful knocking down from behind. The officer hit him twice with a baton when he was lying on the floor.

“So it wasn't just that the officer had pushed him – it became an assault. And then the officer picked him up from the back, continued to walk or charge with him, and threw him.

“He was running and stumbling. He didn't turn and confront the officer or anything like that.”

The IPCC is now investigating the death but previous experience shows that this is often a way of burying the issue for months if not years while putting a gag on all information around the case.