Tag Archives: protesters

Killed by the Metropolitan Police?

I wrote the other day about the man who died during the G20 protests. It was known he had not been protesting, yet had been ‘kettled’ along with innocent bystanders and protesters alike, and collapsed and died on the scene. What wasn’t known was that the police had attacked him first:

The man who died during last week’s G20 protests was “assaulted” by riot police shortly before he suffered a heart attack, according to witness statements received by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Investigators are examining a series of corroborative accounts that allege Ian Tomlinson, 47, was a victim of police violence in the moments before he collapsed near the Bank of England in the City of London last Wednesday evening. Three witnesses have told the Observer that Mr Tomlinson was attacked violently as he made his way home from work at a nearby newsagents. One claims he was struck on the head with a baton.

Photographer Anna Branthwaite said: “I can remember seeing Ian Tomlinson. He was rushed from behind by a riot officer with a helmet and shield two or three minutes before he collapsed.” Branthwaite, an experienced press photographer, has made a statement to the IPCC.

Another independent statement supports allegations of police violence. Amiri Howe, 24, recalled seeing Mr Tomlinson being hit “near the head” with a police baton. Howe took one of a sequence of photographs that show a clearly dazed Mr Tomlinson being helped by a bystander.

A female protester, who does not want to be named but has given her testimony to the IPCC, said she saw a man she later recognised as Tomlinson being pushed aggressively from behind by officers. “I saw a man violently propelled forward, as though he’d been flung by the arm, and fall forward on his head.

“He hit the top front area of his head on the pavement. I noticed his fall particularly because it struck me as a horrifically forceful push by a policeman and an especially hard fall; it made me wince.”

More eyewitness accounts:

Despite what the disgusting tabloids would have you believe, despite what the City of London Police would have you believe, this was not a death which had no cause and no context. Ian Tomlinson by all accounts did not have a random heart attack which was noone’s fault, and which could never have been prevented. He was arbitrarily attacked by the police, and there’s plenty of evidence now that they attacked people indiscriminately:

- an Al-Jazeera TV journalist gets a vicious demonstration of riot police power;

- the entirely peaceful Climate Camp protesters (who didn’t even fight back) are brutalised without cause:

However given the Met’s proclivity for violence and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)’s long track record of exonerating palpably guilty officers from blame, I shouldn’t expect anyone to face justice for causing Ian Tomlinson’s death. I would imagine the best we can hope for is for the Met’s tactic of ‘kettling’ to be ruled illegal by the European Court of Human Rights. Maybe if policing tactics were imposed which were both humane and which presumed the humanity of protesters from the outset, people like Tomlinson wouldn’t have to die.

London’s Police? Violent and Rubbish!

I have said it for years now – there is something fundamentally wrong with the Metropolitan Police. I say this not as an ‘agitator’ (whatever that is), nor as a demonstrator myself; I was alarmed at the way in which the pitifully tiny violent minority was playing up to the cameras on Wednesday, and decided not to become what was clearly part of the problem. I do however unwaveringly support the right to protest and believe it must be protected from those (like she who runs the Home Office) who would see it restricted to what suits them best. I also say this in the full knowledge that there were plenty of police during the day at the Bishopsgate Climate Camp protest who treated the entirely non-violent protesters well, with respect and with good humour. Given the relative difference in size between the ‘anti-bankers’ protest and the climate camp, this meant that during the day at least most of the demonstrators and most of the police behaved well.

Or did they?

Police tactics of containing thousands of people for several hours at the Bank of England protests and using batons against climate camp protesters were condemned yesterday as an infringement of the right to demonstrate.

In the aftermath of the G20 protests in the City of London, politicians, demonstrators and a former police officer raised concerns about the methods used by the Metropolitan police to control crowds of more than 5,000.

Eyewitnesses said hundreds of environmental demonstrators camping out along Bishopsgate in a peaceful protest during the day were cleared from the area aggressively by riot police with batons and dogs after nightfall on Wednesday.

The police had earlier said they would ask the protesters, whom they acknowledged were peaceful, to move as night fell. Commander Simon O’Brien, said his officers would be “politely and proportionately” asking campers to move on.

But one eyewitness, Martin Horwood, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham, said dogs were used on protesters near the camp. James Lloyd, a legal adviser in the camp, said riot police forcefully cleared the area using batons around midnight.

“There was no announcement, the riot police just started moving forward very quickly from the south,” he said. “They were pushing everyone back, pushing forward quickly. They caused panic, people were screaming and shouting … There was a person in a wheelchair struggling to move, being pushed forcibly by them. It was totally disproportionate.”

(source)

So again the most peaceful protesters, as at their Kingsnorth protest last summer, are treated with violence and contempt by the police. But why would they change their tactics, when they were so successful with this segment of the day’s demonstrations? Why bring in the riot police of all units? Well it would seem strange if it were an isolated or unusual abuse, but it wasn’t. Initially their tactic of ‘kettling’ was used indiscriminately, ever more so as the day went on:

“Tactics to herd the crowd into a pen … have been criticised before, yet the police will not want groups spilintering away from the crowd,” (he wrote).

The containment was backed up at the Bank, first with mounted police and then with police dogs. As people were eventually allowed to leave at about 8pm, they were funnelled out down a narrow exit with a police officer grabbing them by the arm as though they were under arrest, again regardless of age or demeanour.

One officer, asked why people were not allowed to leave under their own steam, replied: “They might fall over.”

People were then asked for their name and address and required to have a photograph taken. They are not obliged to do so under the law, but those who refused were put back in the pen.

Neither the authoritarian manner nor the means of control are in their remit; they did so anyway. Polite? Proportionate? Not from the sounds of it. Yet they continued to do it because they were allowed:

Nearly eight years ago, on May Day 2001, a similar “kettle” operation was imposed in Oxford Circus for around seven hours. This led to a lengthy civil action, brought against the commissioner of the Met by one of those detained. In January this year, the law lords finally upheld the right of the police in this case to carry out such containment.

The upshot of the ruling and the police’s application of their “kettle” formula is that people thinking about embarking on demonstrations in the future may have to decide whether they want to be effectively locked up for eight hours without food or water and, when leaving, to be photographed and identified.

So it made no difference that the people ‘kettled’ weren’t a threat to anyone. Because the police were legally allowed to use the tactic (however abusively) they chose to do so. Was the crowd affected violent beforehand? By all accounts no, yet they increasingly became so because of the tactics used. Well done Metropolitan Police. Yet ‘kettling’ was the tip of the iceberg when it came to police abuse. Beth McGrath reports:

Within an hour of arriving, the same police who had stepped back and let me through closed in around the camp and refused to let anyone in or out. I then watched the police push forward into the crowd with a brutality that was not only shocking but utterly unnecessary. All the protesters put their hands in the air and sat down collectively on the road. Yet as the crowd lowered I saw a young man stagger back with his head split open, another boy with a broken nose, a girl next to me had been kicked between the legs.

People were badly hurt and the atmosphere spun into a frightened panic. A friend of mine from university who had come from Nottingham to join the camp just put his head in his hands and cried. This was the scene minutes after people had been allowed to wander into the camp without any warning of the planned police actions, or any chance to leave peacefully.

As they rolled in back-up police and black armoured riot vans, and as the police kicked and crushed people’s bikes, the protesters called out to them, and the onlooking bankers, up in their ivory towers, “This is not a riot!”. As their batons came down, legal observers called out to people to take the police numbers of those who had hurt protesters. En masse, the line of police all covered up their badges. It was a chilling show of a police force unaccountable to their own laws, and their own humanity. The police were indeed braced for violence, but most of that young crowd of protesters were not.

Explain to me someone how the Metropolitan Police can continue to act as a near-unaccountable militia. For that matter take a look at this.

Police and the G20

A man died last night during the G20 protests in central London as a day that began peacefully ended with police saying bottles were thrown at police medics trying to help him.

The man had collapsed within a police cordon set up to contain the crowds who had assembled in central London and the City to protest over the G20 summit. There were 63 arrests on the day.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission was being notified last night. Scotland Yard said the alarm had been raised by a member of the public who spoke to a police officer on a cordon at the junction of Birchin Lane and Cornhill in the City.

He sent two medics through the cordon line and into nearby St Michael’s Alley where they found a man who had stopped breathing. They called for ambulance support at about 7.30pm and moved him back behind the cordon where they gave him cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

“The officers took the decision to move him as during this time a number of missiles – believed to be bottles – were being thrown at them”, said a police statement. The ambulance service took the man to hospital where he died.

(source)

George Monbiot reports:

The way officers tooled themselves up in riot gear and waded into a peaceful crowd this afternoon makes it look almost as if they were trying to ensure that their predictions came true. Their bosses appear to have failed either to read or to heed the report by the parliamentary committee on human rights last week, about the misuse of police powers against protesters. “Whilst we recognise police officers should not be placed at risk of serious injury,” the report said, “the deployment of riot police can unnecessarily raise the temperature at protests.”

Police’s Anti-Protest Database Flouts Human Rights Act

The Guardian has investigated the police’s forward intelligence teams, which compile intelligence against everyone who attends any political protest in this country, and have made an alarming (if unsurprising) discovery. Their very existence is to pre-criminalise protesters, journalists and photographers whom the police just don’t like, and now they’re setting up a database with the information:

Photographs, names and video ­footage of people attending protests are ­routinely obtained by surveillance units and stored on an “intelligence system”. The ­Metropolitan police, which has ­pioneered surveillance at demonstrations and advises other forces on the tactic, stores details of protesters on Crimint, the general database used daily by all police staff to catalogue criminal intelligence. It lists campaigners by name, allowing police to search which demonstrations or political meetings individuals have attended.

Disclosures through the Freedom of Information Act, court testimony, an interview with a senior Met officer and police surveillance footage obtained by the Guardian have ­established that ­private information about activists ­gathered through surveillance is being stored without the knowledge of the people monitored.

Remember this isn’t as the result of any legislation, this is (as with the Damian Green affair) the police making decisions outside of the law, and ignoring human rights as if they don’t matter. We know from the experience of the Kingsnorth climate camp protest last summer that if the police are allowed to abuse protesters they invariably do, and lie to justify the actions they take. How can they be allowed to set up a database which enables them to continue this abuse? Liberty believes their action is illegal under the Human Rights Act:

Corinna Ferguson, Liberty’s legal officer, said: “A searchable database containing photographs of people who are not even suspected of criminal activity may well violate privacy rights under article 8 of the Human Rights Act. It is particularly worrying if peaceful protesters are being singled out for surveillance.”

I couldn’t agree more. If I peacefully attend a peaceful political demonstration, it should be unthinkable that the police could actually be conspiring against me. Yet that is exactly what they are doing. In explanation of the database, Superintendant David Hartshorn of the Metropolitan Police said:

“people we have seen on a regular basis involved but may not have been charged or arrested” were also stored on the database. He added that the data was reviewed every year. “In relation to what we can keep on databases, we are governed quite strictly on that. Obviously you’ve got the Data Protection Act but also, in terms of intelligence, we have to justify what we are able to keep.

To whom? One another? Parliament? The authoritarian government? How likely are they to intervene willingly when they admit they’re already trying to share our private information across government bureaux and departments without our consent? This petty (and ultimately ineffective) authoritarianism has no doubt yet again to be challenged in the European Court, leading again to the strange (and offensive) spectacle of the government which introduced the Human Rights Act being prosecuted for breaching it. Meanwhile we continue our lazy drift into a police state.