Chapter 57: Ian Tomlinson

Ian Tomlinson
The great city was a dangerous place at the beginning of April, 2009. The G20 Summit, which brought together the financial masterminds of the world's most powerful nations, also brought scenes of protest. Police began predicting violence long before the event, and from all appearances, they were determined not to be proven wrong.

Prior to the event, protest organizers had been trying to arrange a meeting with police to discuss plans and ensure the safety of all involved. But the police had more pressing matters, at least until The Guardian began asking difficult questions. A short discussion was hastily arranged but produced nothing substantial.

The police were obviously uninterested in negotiating with the protesters. Instead they had their own plans. In order, they said, to protect the city and prevent any possible violence, they would employ a tactic called "kettling," in which officers, armed with truncheons and shields and accompanied by attack dogs, would surround the area in which the protest is being held. At any time of their choosing, they could "close" the "kettle," refusing civilians passage through their lines.

Police squeeze the kettle.
When a kettle is closed, nobody in the protest can get out, and nobody else can get in. And if the police feel a kettle is too big, or not "pressurized" enough, they can "squeeze" it by moving toward the protesters, who then have no realistic option but to retreat, crowding together even more tightly.

By keeping their plans secret, and by closing or squeezing a kettle at will, the police can keep protesters on the defensive. With the kettle open, protesters could step into the pubs for a drink, a rest, and the use of some plumbing, not necessarily in that order. Closing the kettle would deprive them of valuable resources. And closing it without warning, for indefinite periods, would be a valuable weapon in the hands of the law.

As events transpired on April 1, a long, narrow kettle was formed around the protest, and people were trapped in the heart of the city for hours without food or water, with no sanitary facilities, surrounded by surly police with attack dogs and truncheons. It was almost as if the police were trying to provoke violence.

Police with clubs and shields
beat unarmed protesters.
There were other reasons to suspect the police of trying to provoke the crowd. A Member of Parliament brought to light reports of an incident involving two "protesters" who were throwing bottles at police and urging others to do the same. When these two individuals were accused by actual protesters of being agents provocateurs, they made straight for the cordon, presented identification to the police there, and disappeared through the line that no civilian could cross.

The kettle was closed early in the evening when Ian Tomlinson, a 47-year-old newspaper seller, left work and started walking home. He found his path blocked by a cordon of police who forced him back whence he had come, so he tried a succession of other routes, none of which he was allowed to use. Tired and frustrated, Tomlinson kept trying. But he didn't make it home alive.

Home Office pathologist Freddy Patel
declared Tomlinson's death a heart attack.
Of all the London dailies, The Guardian was the only paper to report his death the next day. All the others preferred to concentrate on events which occurred later in the evening, when the protest turned violent and the police did their best to contain it, or so the story ran.

Unfortunately for that story, videos appeared soon thereafter, showing hundreds of protesters crammed together and standing with arms outstretched, chanting, "This is not a riot," while police beat them with the edges of their shields.

The story of Ian Tomlinson's death came from the police, who said their first contact with him occurred when they found him face-down and obviously in severe distress. They did their best to attend to him, even to the point of dodging bottles and bricks thrown at them by the protesters, but they were unable to save Tomlinson's life, or so the papers said. But none of that story was true.

A post-mortem was quickly arranged by the police and the cause of death was identified as a heart attack. Unfortunately for the police, the Home Office pathologist who performed the post-mortem was notoriously incompetent and dishonest, and none of his story was true, either.

Officer Simon Harwood attacked Ian
Tomlinson from behind, causing his death.
Tomlinson's family requested a second autopsy, which was done by a neutral pathologist and which ascribed his death to internal bleeding. So the cause of death was a matter of some dispute for a time. But the falsity of the police account of Tomlinson's death was convincingly proven on April 7th, when The Guardian published excerpts from testimonies of numerous witnesses, all of whom described seeing something very different.

In addition to the testimonies, The Guardian posted on its website a video showing Ian Tomlinson walking away from the police with his hands in his pockets, being struck by a policeman, then suddenly being knocked to the pavement by an attack from behind.

With his hands in his pockets, Tomlinson had no way to defend himself. He landed on his arm, injuring his liver, and died of internal bleeding.

The video continues, showing protesters attempting to help Tomlinson, while police stand by with their shields and dogs. It shows no flying bottles, nobody throwing bricks, and no attempt whatsoever by the police to rush to Tomlinson's assistance.

Suddenly, the police had a serious problem.