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Archive for April 8th, 2009

Duncan Campbell on Police misinformation around the G20 summit

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From The Guardian

Some of the miles and miles of footage that was shot has now been given to the Guardian and shared across the internet. It shows Tomlinson, who was not a demonstrator but one of the many people unable to leave the melee, being thrown to the ground a few moments before he died of a heart attack. Far from the police coming under attack, at this stage Tomlinson is only cared for by a demonstrator. Do the police have their own film of what happened?

What is also striking is that, so soon after the inquest into the death of the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, assumptions about a suspicious death should be so swiftly made and the official version accepted so unquestioningly. One of the Met’s major problems in the wake of de Menezes was the feeling that misinformation about the circumstances of his death was allowed to linger too long in the public domain.

Of course, the police are under pressure to come up with instant information for the ever-increasing media outlets. A man has died. How? Why? Who was he? It is hardly suprising that the police’s best take on the incident – that they were the subject of attack by demonstrators as they tried to save a man’s life – is the one that gets passed out and then gets prime position in the coverage. But when did it become clear to the police, from their own intelligence and video footage, what had actually happened to Tomlinson?

The two lessons must be that, as always, we should never assume that the first official version of a death in suspicious circumstances is accurate. The second lesson must be that the police have now to review their tactics for future demonstrations.

A man with a weak heart died. Was he prevented from leaving a scene of mayhem, of police, mounted and in riot gear, of barking dogs and bonfires? We were meant to recall the G20 summit as the start of a new world order. It may now turn out to be a rather less glorious view of the mechanics of law and order.

Written by Richard Wilson

April 8, 2009 at 6:00 am