As if we didn’t already know – the extremely hasty post-mortem on Ian Tomlinson didn’t give the full story. This one, as they say, has legs. The Sunday Times is going to be running with the report from the climate camp’s legal team, including my testimony. Whether the Met will be able to resist a proper inquiry into police tactics on the day remains to be seen. I’m going to use this post to add various links to stuff I’ve read on this story, extra thoughts as they come.
One thing that has been running around my head since we got attacked by the police is the degree to which this nearly didn’t become a story at all. There was nothing in the news about police violence the following day – Tomlinson’s death was a footnote amid the gibbering non-story of a media sanitised summit in the Excel centre. Even the Guardian was very slow off the mark – Indymedia had witness stories, and I think also pictures of Tomlinson before they did. I remember emails going around on the Thursday telling people to get on the phone to the Guardian’s newsdesk and tell them that they completely failed to pick up on the story of the police’s behaviour. To give them their dues they made up for that omission later on, and got the pivotal video evidence that has completely changed everything. As the IPCC had presided over a dubious postmortem, was briefing journalists that there was nothing in the story, claiming that there were no video cameras in the area, I think we can all see where their investigation was heading.
This is a salutary lesson to anyone who is partial to simplistic analyses of capitalist class struggle – if it weren’t for the conscience of a New York fund manager, the police could have got away with causing the death of a passer-by in the middle of the city of London – completely surrounded by CCTV and witnesses. Who’s up for hanging a banker now? Incidentally, there is a Facebook group coordinating complaints to the BBC about their failure to report the violent breaking up of the climate camp. I would also encourage anyone with fingers to complain about Evan Davis, who firstly denied that Tomlinson had been hit with a baton, and seemed to think that because the Met & ACPO wouldn’t put up an interviewee to defend the indefensible, he had to cover their collective areses in the interests of balance. As an indication of exactly how sickeningly deferential towards the cops he was, rabid rightwing screed ‘Biassed BBC’ ran with it under the title ‘unbiassed’ – if the BBC makes these guys happy, you know they are failing in their public service remit.
The other thing that has been bugging me (with the possible exception of FUCKIN’ ALLLLL OF IT!!….ahem), is a comment made by one of the officers when I was right up against their lines after we had been trampled in their rush on the bicycle sound system. A girl who I was with, who got punched five times in the head, and went to hospital with concussion, reports that her friend overhead one of the police say about her – “you must be a leftie, with a face like that”. I never said anything at the time, as I didn’t want to upset her, but I overheard one of them say “she looks like something out of Middle Earth”.
There are two things that stand out in this comment – the first is the bizarre similarity with Boris’ collumn about the protests: “when April dawns they will surge like the orcs of Mordor in the general direction of the Bank of England”. The second was the chilling realisation what I heard was classic dehumanisation, in a very literal sense. He said it twice, lamely, as if he was hoping one of his colleagues would join in, or laugh along with him. It was a bit pathetic and what really came across to me was that he was looking more for reassurance than anything else. I wonder if this was the guy who punched her several times, looking for some sort of affirmation that it was ok because she was ugly, and anyway…they aren’t like us, right?
I think the role of Boris in all of this has been underscrutinised so far. Word is that the Home Office had input into the police strategy, so we’ll see whether any of those chickens make their way home, but what about the wretched blond apparition who supposedly runs the capital? As Dave Hill has pointed out, he has been dead quiet about this, but was soiling his pants to get on the Today programme and announce Bob Quick’s resignation, and generally show us that he is in charge of the Met. As an avowed libertarian, you’d think he might have an opinion on his police beating up peaceful protesters on the streets of his city, but his only statement has been to say that the police did an excellent job, and that he hopes that the nastiness will all be over soon. Fuck me dead, at least Paul Stevenson had the good sense to say that footage of his men assaulting a man shortly before he died was ‘troubling’, or words to that effect. An excellent job? In what sense? How bad would this have to look before it fitted the mayor’s idea of a police public relations disaster? Tiananmen square? That bit in Mississippi Burning when you realise the cops are actually the Klu Klux Klan? Ed 209?
Ok, so we all really know that most people who call themselves a libertarians basically don’t like being taxed, but have few qualms about all sorts of unpleasentnesses being meated out to anyone outside their social class, or circle of acquaintance. But you’d think Borris would have better advice than this – I think he is out of step with popular opinion. I’d wager that most people would take the police’s side over stident hippy types, all other things being equal. When they have wontonly attacked an Evening Standard seller who did nothing worse than walk down the wrong street and resent being manhandled by thugs in reflective jackets, that’s quite a different matter. And to have it all come out in a perfect media storm that draws in their utterly cack-handed arrest of Damian Green and all the memorials of Hillsborough, suddenly it begins to look like we just handed over a lot of power to people who are not fit to wield it. As I’ve already said, the Sunday Times is running with the attack on the climate camp this weekend, and the journalist I spoke to was actually sincerely concerned about what he’d been reading. Similarly, Times leader writer Danny Finkelstein has admitted he was wrong to assume that we don’t need politicians acting as media observers at protests, and that there “were clearly more than one or two isolated examples of brutal police tactics.”
This are Boris’ kind of people, or should be. Is he unable to comment further because he gave police some very unwise advice beforehand? I’m not going to make wild claims that there was some crazy Tolkeinian conspiracy, but his attitude is easy to read from his collumn beforehand. I think it’s safe to assume that he gave the the police a lot of leeway, if he gave them any kind of a steer, and it wouldn’t have been out of character for him to say some extremely foolish things about roughing up hippies. I wonder what will come out…
- Merrick, who is in a much better position to judge than I am, reckons that the police’s behaviour was relatively restrained compared to what he’s seen before