“You have the right not to be killed. Murder is a crime! Unless it is done by a policeman…” – The Clash, ‘Know Your Rights‘
For the ruling class, the embarrassment caused by the transparent cover-up of Ian Tomlinson’s police killing was a necessary evil. The alternative was far worse – a very public examination of policing tactics at a time of drastic cutbacks.
But before the storm blows over, the matter is in the media spotlight, and the following facts are incontrovertible:
- Ian Tomlinson died after being struck and pushed to the ground by PC Simon Harwood.
- Photos show that Tomlinson had two prior encounters with police that evening.
- Witnesses claim there had been two police prior assaults on Tomlinson, before he was pushed to the ground during the third encounter.
- In the wake of Tomlinson’s death, the official Metropolitan Police story was that there had been no physical contact between him and police officers that night.
- This was shown to be false when members of public submitted their own footage, proving the opposite.
- Dr. Freddy Patel conducted the first autopsy, and concluded that Tomlinson died of a heart attack, something that would officially absolve the police from culpability.
- At the request of Tomlinson’s family, Dr. Nat Cary conducted a second autopsy, and concluded that Tomlinson died from an abdominal haemorrhage, which is usually caused by trauma.
- The findings of a third autopsy were consistent with those of the second.
- Dr. Patel has been suspended by the Home Office, and is under investigation for allegedly conducting four other autopsies incompetently.
The Crown Prosecution Service’s decision not to take Harwood to court therefore appears to fly in the face of the evidence. Reasonably, it would be for the jury to decide how much weight to grant Dr. Patel’s claims, but the CPS ruled that:
“As the sole medical expert who conducted the first post mortem, Dr. Patel would have to be called at trial as a prosecution witness as to the primary facts. As a result, the CPS would simply not be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Tomlinson’s death was caused by PC ‘A’ [Harwood] pushing him to the ground.”
This establishment trick has taken place in plain sight of anyone interested enough to keep up with the story. In the words of George Monbiot, “This is a moment in which the pomp and majesty of the law falls away to reveal a squalid little stitch-up.”
Of course, for many of us, the law has never really had any “pomp and majesty”. Quite apart from the repression meted out to the poor, young, and non-white, anyone who has been on a large-scale protest knows that the kind of treatment Ian Tomlinson received was actually nothing exceptional. It was doubtless just one of many similar cases on the day of the G-20 protests. Indeed, Sergeant Delroy Smellie attacked protester Nicola Fisher at the summit demonstrations, before being cleared by Westminster Magistrates this April, on the basis that it was “reasonable” for Smellie to assume that Fisher was holding a weapon. In fact, she was holding an open carton of orange juice. Explicitly non-violent Climate Campers also found themselves getting baton-charged and trampled.
If a black-clad, mask-wearing demonstrator had been killed, it would have been much easier for the mass media. They would have been painted as an outsider, and their character as well as their body would have been assassinated. This was what happened with Carlo Guiliani, who was killed at the 2001 Genoa protests. But Tomlinson was not even protesting. He was a ‘normal’ passer-by on his way home from his selling newspapers. The most unusual thing about him was the number of children now left fatherless by the killing – nine.
Once again, the idea that police neutrally uphold democratically-decided laws has been exposed as a fiction, and politicians are worried. Former Transport Minister Sadiq Khan told the Question Time audience: “The problem is that for policing to work, it’s got to be done by consent, and the police need to have the confidence of the public for us to have an effective police.”
Similarly, Diane Abbott, the supposedly ‘left’ candidate for the Labour leadership, fretted that: “I now find it very difficult to see how a breakdown in the relationship between the public and our police forces will be avoided.”
Such a breakdown is well underway, and necessary. As anti-police activists Fitwatch commented on the Tomlinson charade:
“It’s time to wake up – these institutions do not exist to protect us but to subjugate us. […] What is the use of having rights if the state determines when and where we can exercise them? We are given the right to protest when we’re no threat, but refused the right to even assemble when it’s most critical.”
“The chilling thing is that for anyone who is thinking about protesting against the enforced transfer of billions of pounds from the public sector to the private sector due to the Con-Dem government’s austerity measures will encounter the same police units, training, leadership, methodology and intelligence-lead policing.”
At a time when enormous cuts threaten the living standards of millions in the UK and billions around the world, this is a harsh but vital lesson in the brutal reality of the capitalist state.