Police killed Ian Tomlinson

At last an inquest jury has brought back a verdict of unlawful killing on the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 demonstration in the City of London on 1 April 2009. The jury decided that the baton strike delivered by PC Simon Harwood involved excessive and unreasonable force.

The tissue of outright lies and half-truths put in place by the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions in the wake of the killing is now unravelling. PC Harwood’s evidence to the inquest was decisive: it became clear that his statement that he had been involved in a series of incidents with ‘violent’ demonstrators and that he had felt his life was threatened were palpably untrue. In reality he was behaving as a violent thug and his aggressive behaviour led to Ian Tomlinson’s death. He has now been charged with manslaughter.

PC Harwood is not the only person to blame. In advance of the G20 demonstration the police made it clear through the media that they were expecting ‘a summer of rage’ with dire warnings of ‘violent minorities’ poised to take over the streets of London on 1 April. They boasted that they were ‘up for it and up to it’. Clearly PC Harwood got the message from his bosses that police thuggery would be the order of the day. In FRFI we reported: ‘In reality the violence, first and foremost, came from aggressive policing. In the face of a largely peaceful demonstration, riot police and TSG used dogs and batons to attack the protesters, “kettling” 4,000 people by corralling them into a police pen in front of the Bank of England for hours.’ Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper vendor trying to find his way home, was caught in the police trap and killed by them.

Following his death the police claimed that Tomlinson had been aggressive and had been attacked by demonstrators whilst lying ill on the ground. The police issued misleading press statements, as they always do, and arranged for a pre-briefed, incompetent pathologist to carry out the postmortem and conclude that the cause of death was a heart attack. The media weighed in with accusations of violence by demonstators and London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, claimed that it was an ‘orgy of cop bashing’. As always this was the very opposite of the truth.

It was only because a passer-by had filmed the incident and handed the film to The Guardian newspaper that the truth came to light. Subsequent post mortems, carried out on behalf of the family, gave a different cause of death to that of the stooge police pathologist. The police had created enough doubt surrounding the events, however, for the loyal Director of Public Prosecutions to throw out any prospect of criminal charges on the grounds that the conflicting medical evidence would not allow a court to make a causal link between the death and the police assault. The inquest verdict put an end to his nonsense. Within days, he had no choice but to announce that Harwood would be charged. This, however, is only the beginning. There should now be a trial and the police responsible for the thuggery and lies should be brought to account.

Jane Bennett

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 221 June/July 2011