‘Criminal inquiry’ call after G20 police attack is filmed
Video posted by the Guardian shows a ‘sickening and unprovoked attack’ by police on the man who died during the G20 protests in London
The Liberal Democrats' justice spokesman David Howarth has called for a criminal inquiry after amateur video footage posted by the Guardian newspaper on Tuesday showed that Ian Tomlinson was attacked from behind and thrown to the ground by a police officer minutes before he collapsed and died during the G20 protests in London on April 1.
The dramatic footage, which shows a seemingly unprovoked attack by the baton-wielding police officer dressed in full riot gear, was shot by a New Yorker shortly before Tomlinson, a 47-year-old Evening Standard news vendor who was on his way home when he got caught up in the protest, suffered a heart attack and failed to respond to first aid treatment.
Howarth, reacting to the footage, said: "This video clearly shows an unprovoked attack by a police officer on a passer-by. It is sickening. There must be a full-scale criminal investigation. The officer concerned and the other officers shown in the video must immediately come forward."
The video revelation raises several important questions:
• Had the police been primed to take a tough line at the protests? As reported by The First Post in an article headline 'Operation Overkill' a week before the April 1 protests, senior Metropolitan Police officials were already talking of "being up for it" and using similarly provocative language.
• Why, on the night of April 1, did the police brief the press on Tomlinson's death without making any reference to the contact between the officer and the dead man?
• Will any police officer pay the price for what is evidently an unprovoked attack? The incident raises the spectre of Blair Peach, the New Zealand teacher who was struck and killed by police officers on a Southall street during an Anti Nazi League rally in 1979. The incident raised questions about police behaviour that reverberated for years, yet no officer was ever held accountable.
The Guardian has announced that it will be passing the footage along with a dossier of witness testimony to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is monitoring an investigation into Tomlinson's death by City of London police. The investigation will have to decide whether the case should be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Tomlinson's treatment by the police is shocking because it appears to be clear from his behaviour that, as already reported by his family, he was not taking part in the G20 protest near the Bank of England. He is walking casually through Royal Exchange Passage with his hands in his pocket when the policeman strikes. It is 7.20pm and he is on his way home after completing his day's work selling the Evening Standard outside Monument tube station. There is no evidence from the video footage of his talking to the police or offering any kind of resistance before he is pushed to the ground.
The video appears to show the police officer using the baton to hit him from behind across the the upper thigh. Moments later, the same officer pushes him in the back and sends him to the ground.
From his position sitting on the street, Tomlinson then remonstrates with the police. None of the policemen offers him any help – he is lifted to his feet by members of the public.
Tomlinson then continued to walk towards home but in nearby Cornhill he collapsed. At this point, other police officers did step in to help: police medics (with Tomlinson, above) joined an ambulance crew trying to resuscitate him. He died, lying on the pavement. In their statement to the press on April 1, the police said their first aid efforts were marred by G20 protesters throwing missiles at them.
The man who shot the footage was a fund manager from New York who was in London on business. He said he had attended the protests out of curiosity. He handed in his video to the Guardian when he realised from media coverage that Tomlinson's family "were not getting any answers".
The irony that it took a New Yorker employed in the financial services sector to bring public attention to an incident that occurred only yards from where protestors were smashing the windows of the RBS bank, will not be lost on Londoners once again pondering the behaviour of their police force.
Editor's update: It was reported on April 9 that the officer seen assaulting Ian Tomlinson shortly before his death has identified himself to his manager and will be questioned by investigators. The unnamed Metropolitan Police officer has not been arrested on suspicion of assault or suspended from duty.WHAT THEY ARE SAYINGLeader in the Guardian: The strategy of ‘kettling’ the protests - in which demonstrators are confined to a controlled area and then dispersed, by force if necessary - should be properly scrutinised. Mr Tomlinson died during apparently co-ordinated kettling operations by the police. The suitability of such tactics - including the use of dogs and the numbers of officers involved - should now be coolly examined. Kettling, after all, recalls the Red Army's tactics at the Battle of Stalingrad. But the G20 demonstrators and those who came to watch them or got involved with them were not invading Russia. They were making a legal public protest in a peaceful democracy.
Duncan Campbell, the Guardian: What is also striking is that, so soon after the inquest into the death of the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, assumptions about a suspicious death should be so swiftly made and the official version accepted so unquestioningly. One of the Met's major problems in the wake of de Menezes was the feeling that misinformation about the circumstances of his death was allowed to linger too long in the public domain.
Andy Hayman, former Assistant Commissioner Special Operations at the Metropolitan Police, the Times: The video of Ian Tomlinson being struck to the ground for no apparent reason looks ugly... Whatever the cause [of Tomlinson's death], the commissioner must ask serious questions about the style of policing. If left unchecked we have a more violent crowd in uniform than the crowd demonstrating. ·
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