Sunday, 10 April 2011

"They got me, the fuckers got me"

Ian Tomlinson, the newspaper vendor who died at the G20 protests in 2009, muttered "the fuckers got me" just before he died. The inquest into his death, which is ongoing, serves as a timely reminder of the manner in which the police "facilitate peaceful protest" for our "safety."

As the Guardian explains in full;
The 47-year-old had been attempting to find his way home from work before he finally encountered [PC Simon] Harwood, a member of the Metropolitan Police's territorial support group (TSG).

Harwood, a van driver who had strayed from his vehicle, has accepted Tomlinson posed no threat to him or anyone else when he struck him. He said he did so because he believed the newspaper seller posed a "breach of the peace" under common law.

The heavy push sent Tomlinson sprawling to the ground on Royal Exchange Buildings at around 7.20pm on 1 April 2009.

Tomlinson was helped to his feet by a bystander and stumbled along Cornhill for a minute or two before collapsing outside a Starbucks coffee shop. Saleem said he saw Tomlinson stagger along Cornhill "as if he was drunk" before falling to the ground "like a tree".

"He was kind of swaying as he came up the road, kind of staggering from left to right," he told Alison Hewitt QC, counsel to the inquest. "Just before I saw him fall over when he was coming up he kind of shook his head as if to like clear his head.

"And that was when he fell into the wall on his left-hand side. It was like he was not in charge of his body, it was like a tree falling over. His arms were by his side and there was no reaction when he hit the wall.

"It was a forceful impact."

Saleem said people rushed to Tomlinson's aid and he saw a redness on the man's head. "I think he was still breathing and his eyes were still open."

When police medics rushed in to help Tomlinson he started slipping in and out of consciousness and his eyes were "flicking around".
However, more recent anti-cuts protests have proven that Harwood is not just a bad apple, and that Tomlinson is not the only innocent bystander to get caught up in police violence.

This excellent video, for example, explains the police attack on Trafalgar Square after the March for the Alternative in full. As part of that, it notes a man who found himself within the police kettle having been beaten about the head. He was wearing a hi-vis workmen's jacket and saying "I need to get to work." Given the force employed, it was sheer luck that he or someone else didn't die that night.

All of which may shatter the illusion of social democracy. But, as I've said numerous times, the police are not there for our safety or protection. Their job is to maintain "public order," which in essence means upholding the monopoly of violence enjoyed by the state.

That being the case, the fact that Ian Tomlinson can be singled out as a relatively unique case is rather surprising. However, being in a time of escalating class war and increasing class anger on the streets, that may not be the case for very long. The police have already recovered from the sheepishness enforced by the outcry over Tomlinson's death, and the media have closed ranks to gloss over the fact that their brutality is once again escalating.

As such, it goes without saying that we shouldn't cooperate or collaborate with them. We certainly shouldn't be appeasing authority by buying into the "good protester/bad protester" narrative. What we should be doing is making sure that we look out for each other. We need practical solidarity to defend those who protest from the police - whether in jail or at the blunt end of a baton.