Socialist Worker

Don’t let police off the hook

Justice for Ian Tomlinson | Defend the right to protest

Issue No. 2147

“No justice, No peace” was the rallying cry of campaigners last Saturday as they marched for justice for Ian Tomlinson.

It is a call that must be turned into a reality. Ian Tomlinson died on Wednesday 1 April on Cornhill, a street in the City of London where thousands were protesting against the G20 summit.

Police had assaulted him at least once. They then tried to cover it up. Paul King, Ian Tomlinson’s son, spoke to campaigners on last Saturday’s march. “Video footage shows that Ian suffered a violent assault at the hands of the police,” he said.

“We hope that the police involved will be held responsible for their actions.”

The original post-mortem stated that Ian had died from natural causes. Mounting video evidence and witness statements that emerged in the days that followed give a different picture.

One video taken on a bystander’s mobile phone shows Ian walking away from police with his hands in his pockets.

It shows a balaclava-clad officer hit Ian on the back of the legs with his baton, and then shove him violently to the ground.

Ian appears to hit his head on the pavement as he falls. He collapsed and died a few minutes later. Several witnesses have challenged initial police claims that medics were pelted with plastic bottles as they tried to help Ian.

Protesters called an ambulance and shielded him from people running away from police. Some said that when police arrived they pushed those who were helping Ian away and refused to speak to the ambulance operator on the phone.

Ian was not a protester but was on his way home from work. He was trying to make his way through streets that were blocked by police. A new post-mortem has been commissioned by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is carrying out an investigation into the death.

We should not expect the IPCC to deliver justice for Ian. Its chair Nick Hardwick originally claimed that there was no CCTV evidence of the contact Ian had had with police. This week that was found to be false.

One police officer has been suspended, but the IPCC had so far failed to interview him as Socialist Worker went to press.

Activists have to campaign to win justice for Ian’s family and for the police to be held to account.

The fight is not only about Ian’s tragic death. It is about defending the right to protest. The arrest of 114 people in Nottingham this week on suspicion of planning protests at a power station is just the latest sign of an increasing police clampdown.

We must stand together as a movement to resist the state’s violence and protect our civil liberties.

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