Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Man died passing through peaceful protest due to police assault (updated)

(Interrupting self-imposed blog exile to broadcast the below):

Middle-aged man who was simply walking and presented absolutely no threat to public order (video clip showed that he was proceeding at a slow pace, walking away from the police and had his hands in his pockets), was attacked from behind by the police, with attack dogs at their side. This man shortly collapsed afterwards and died of a heart attack. This happened during the G20 protest in London earlier.

Video coverage of the assault can be found here:


In the video clip, it can be seen that there was absolutely no sign of aggression from the man, yet the police charged at him for no reason other than that he happened to be in front of them - in spite of the fact that it was clear he was just trying to get out of their way. The UK Metropolitan police later claimed that protestors impeded the medical services from reaching to help the man after he collapsed, when it was clear in this video clip that no police had actually offered to help the man after he was assaulted by one of their members, and it was in fact a protester who helped him up after he got bounced onto the ground by the police.

From the video-clip, it is clear the important role played by an independent media, even in allegedly democratic societies where the right to protest is meant to be protected.

(To blog friends: Am alive and well, thanks, will get back to responding to comments and blogging in another two months, not that I think anyone might still be caring by that stage!).

Update 23 April 2009:

The above was written just as the story broke. It subsequently emerged that Mr. Tomlinson himself was not a protester but a passerby who happened to be in the area and was on his way home when the police assaulted him. The first post-portem that found him died of a heart attack, with his death attributed thus to "natural causes", has since been called into question by a second post-mortem, which found the cause of death was most likely due to internal bleeding. A third post-mortem is now being called for after even more video evidence has come to light. The Met police has been under serious public pressure not only with regard to its handling of Mr. Tomlinson's case (the criticisms of which involved not only the fact that a member of the police has assaulted an ordinary citizen simply going about his business, but that the police deliberately covered up his badge number and hid his face behind a balaclava whilst carrying out the attack, and the subsequent lies and official cover-up by the police force from the top-down that misled the investigation into the circumstances of his death), but also of its general "kettling" tactics against protesters at the G20 meeting.

The Guardian newspaper justly deserved plaudits for being the only newspaper in Britain that did not take the Met police's explanations at face value and doggedly pursue the story of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Tomlinson's death, at a time when UK mainstream media simply bought into the police propaganda of an impending violent confrontation and dismissed protesters as mere good-for-nothing trouble-makers, when the truth was actually the reverse and that much of the violence, captured on live cameras and propagated via grassroot social media, was actually shown to have been instigated by the police themselves, the prime example being their violent clearance of the climate camp, where peaceful demonstrators, many of whom women, and almost all of whom had their arms in the air to signify non-violence, were indiscriminately bashed by baton-charging and shield-wielding riot police.


Seeing this kind of footage, the days when there could be a million people peacefully marching through the streets of London, with their right to protest facilitated by the police, as in the anti-war march at the onset of the Iraq war, seem like a rather quaint distant memory, if not a totally fanciful one. And that was only six years ago...

Update 23 April 2009:

I'm reminded that the fight to bring truth and justice is not unique to any society:

I'm relieved that there are fair-minded commentators and fair-minded independent media still somehow surviving in Hong Kong. Perhaps all is not lost and we do have the wherewithal to develop a responsible fourth estate after all, even though members of the younger generation are increasingly seduced by the chimera of a greater China and blindly conflate patriotism with regime obeisance, and confusing serious, rigorous debates informed by reason and ethics, with the silly parrying of political rhetoric founded on nothing more than false dichotomies and moral cowardice.

Whilst there are authoritarian tendencies in all societies (democracy only offers an electoral means to counter authoritarianism, not a guarantee), and aggressors everywhere tend to blame the victims for their suffering and loss, the media remain the key means by which we as citizens can remain vigilant in holding the powers-that-be to account. The fight for truth and justice carry on, and "you'll never walk alone".

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