>G20: The End of Peaceful Protest?

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There can no longer be any doubt that the police were responsible for Ian Tomlinson’s death. Video evidence released over the last couple of days show clearly he was the victim of a vicious assault moments before he died.

Undoubtedly, the police will try and spin the story about the one bad copper pumped up by a bad situation. However, this simply isn’t the case. The violence and brutality shown by the police last week was commonplace, with masked up riot cops wading into peaceful climate camp protesters with batons and boots.

Furthermore, the reaction of the other officers reveals how endemic and normalised this level of violence has become within the MET. Not one of the officers present made any effort to restrain their colleague – as I have sometimes seen them do on other occasions – not one checks to see whether he is okay. The FIT officers standing directly in front of Tomlinson carry on their conversation seemingly oblivious to the violence perpetrated in front of them.

The media, which last week showed continual footage of protesters confronting the police, has this week miraculously found their footage of people being attacked by baton wielding riot cops in side streets. However, there has been no attempt to link these two facts, and engage in the argument that the protesters were justified to fight back against this policing. There has been wide spread criticism of the police kettling people for hours without access to food, water or toilet facilities, yet there has been no suggestion that protesters were justified to use force to free themselves from this situation. Instead, media reports still insist these people were there just to cause trouble, without believing in any cause, and were nothing more than violent thugs.

Violent anarchists have been blamed for the policing operation, and it is likely the effects of the violence perpetrated against the police will be used to justify this appalling assault against a man who was walking away from the police with his hands in his pockets. However, anyone who believes the police wouldn’t have used such force against protesters if no one had fought back is naive, as events at the Kingsnorth climate camp last summer proved.

Protest policing has changed. Boundaries have blurred, and there is no distinction in the way the police treat different groups of demonstrators. Unauthorised protest is not tolerated, and is broken up, often with extreme force. People are made to feel like criminals simply for attending a protest, whether it be by FIT’s constant flash photography, arbitrary stop and searches , or by being pushed and beaten. Rightly or wrongly, if the climate camp seriously wanted to keep their space for twenty four hours, they would have needed burning barricades and a large supply of molotovs alongside their cake and bunting.

Everyone who resisted the police, whether violently or not, are brave compassionate people who were prepared to risk a hell of a lot just to have a presence on the streets of London. The people who did fight back showed we can successfully challenge police lines, and it is encouraging to see this new emerging militancy continuing.

Ian Tomlinson was not a demonstrator, but he could have been, and it is a chilling reminder of the risks we take simply by being in the vicinity of a protest. Furthermore, the nature of the police attack on him would not have been any more or less justified had he been a demonstrator.

Greece was recently set on fire when a protester was killed. The police, terrified of civil unrest during the G20, lied in order to repress the collective rage which would have been expressed on the streets. They are hoping by the news being drip fed a week later this anger will be suppressed, but we musn’t let this happen.

Superintendent Hartshorn fabricated the “summer of rage” to scare people away from protests, and to justify massive police repression. Perhaps it’s time he finds out what a summer of rage really looks like.

Justice for Ian Tomlinson – Saturday 11th April, 11am, Bethnal Green police station.

Brighton Mayday – Monday 4th May, 12 noon.

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