4.21.2009

why is ian tomlinson dead?

Have you been following the case of Ian Tomlinson?

On April 1, Tomlinson, a London (UK) resident, was on his way home from work, walking slowly with his hands in his pockets. He passed by the G20 demonstrations.

Apparently he got in the way of some London police - who threw him to the ground and clubbed him.

A few moments later, he died. It appeared he suffered a heart attack, and an initial autopsy confirmed that.

The Guardian published video of the incident on their website.



As you can see, Tomlinson's hands were in his pockets when he was thrown down.

Two weeks later, London cops attacked and beat people who attended a vigil for Tomlinson. [Thanks to James for this one, which I would have missed.]

Last Friday, April 17, a second autopsy revealed that Ian Tomlinson did not die of a heart attack. The cause of death was internal, abdominal bleeding. The doctor who performed the second autopsy found evidence of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) around Tomlinson's heart, but said it was insufficient to have caused death.

The London Metropolitan Police are now requesting a third autopsy be performed, since the first two coroners came to different conclusions. Meanwhile, we should not forget that even if Tomlinson's death was caused by a heart attack, the heart attack itself would have been caused by the police's brutal, unprovoked attack.

Many journalists, both mainstream and bloggers, have emphasized that Ian Tomlinson did nothing wrong. He was simply walking by the protests. And now he is dead. True. And awful beyond measure.

But I'd like to remind us all: if Tomlinson had been a protestor, this would still be wrong. Public protest is not a crime. And if someone commits a crime during a public protest, they should not be clubbed - to death or otherwise - in the street!

Here, courtesy of BoingBoing, is video of London police viciously beating peaceful G20 protestors.

Police violence is often justified and rationalized by pointing to the victim's criminal record. But if that's the case, then the victim should have been arrested, arraigned and tried. Unless we want to live in a society where the "justice" system is the police - here's a club, go get some bad guys - this kind of violence must be condemned and punished, no matter what the perceived innocence or guilt of the victim.

20 comments:

M@ said...

I'm impressed that the Guardian is pressing the issue.

I used to think the same way as a lot of people -- hey, you want to protest, you take your chances, the police are just keeping the peace and protecting people. I dismissed claims that the police were being rough and so on.

But as I've gotten older I've become more skeptical of police claims, and more sympathetic to claims that police were starting or even inciting violence. Maybe because of the Internet; the mainstream media typically doesn't bother showing the non-establishment side of the story.

James said...

This photo sums up the UK police quite nicely.

redsock said...

This photo sums up the UK police quite nicely.

Well, he can't be a medic if no one is hurt ...

L-girl said...

James, thanks for that link, I forgot about that one!

"I used to think the same way as a lot of people -- hey, you want to protest, you take your chances"

M@, I honestly never knew people felt that way. That is downright chilling. People really don't like democracy, do they? They like it in theory, but in practice, they're more comfortable with fascism. ("If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about...")

I used to believe protesting in placews like the US, Canada or the UK was perfectly safe and fears of police brutality were exaggerated. Not that I didn't know about things like Kent State, but I thought those were exceptional, and more a product of the times.

I've learned otherwise, of course.

James said...

I used to believe protesting in placews like the US, Canada or the UK was perfectly safe and fears of police brutality were exaggerated.It certainly helps explain why it took so long to sort things out with Ireland.

L-girl said...

"It certainly helps explain why it took so long to sort things out with Ireland."

Now that I always knew about, from my fascination with Irish history. Funny how we don't generalize - we think "those things happen to other people", even when we should know better.

MSEH said...

I hadn't seen this - one of the reasons why your blog is so valuable. I just went and read a number of online accounts. It's just unbelievable...

Cornelia said...

Horrid, there must be really very severe problems with the police over there!! Totally unacceptable and untenable!!

Cornelia said...

They really have been doing a horrible job. OMG!! There is urgent need of improvements...

James said...

Horrid, there must be really very severe problems with the police over there!There's nothing special about "over there". Check out More Police Abuse And Lies, Videotape The Police, Get Arrested, What Does A Police Officer Have To Do To Get Fired?, and Family Sues After Police Arrest and Rough Up 12-Year-Old Girl as a Prostitute Outside of Her Texas Home. Not to mention things like the taser abuse WMTC has covered multiple times.

Cornelia said...

Sorry I meant re: all the instances which were covered in WMTC, not re: either Canada or the US. Sorry my wording was really not adequate! We have problems and horrid people, too over here, of course!

Mara Clarke said...

As a former PR person, it's been very interesting for me to watch this unfold in the press here.

One good thing (if there can be a positive aspect to a senseless death) is that it's not just the Guardian covering this issue - it's also the Telegraph, the Independent, the Times, etc. Virtually all the correspondents and columnists are saying that police behaviour was wrong - in particular the fact that many police covered up their ID numbers.

Another positive thing is that it's come to light that there has not been a review of policing in general in the UK in more than 40 years; now there will be.

That said, I want to point out as an American living in the UK that in general, my expereinces of UK police have been over all better than my experiences of police in several US cities. And - I am not willing to paint all police in any country as all bad, or corrupt, or whatever. Just like I dismiss out of hand claims that "all" the G20 protesters were thugs out to cause damage and raise mayhem.

Cornelia said...

I agree, Mara. Thanks so much!

Cornelia said...

Of course I know that taser is very bad and not okay at all and should be abolished or at least absolutely restricted to the cases of self-defense of the officers (serious danger for life and limb), James!

L-girl said...

Mara, that's very encouraging to hear re media coverage and review of policing. Thanks for telling us.

I also would never paint all police as any one way, any more than any other group.

I've had a few very positive experiences with police, especially working in the anti-sexual-assault community, police who are specially trained for that and who really care about their work and helping survivors.

But humans who are given authority, uniforms, weapons and power will often abuse those, and need to be watched and heavily regulated.

Cornelia said...

Thanks so much, Laura, I agree.

Cornelia said...

I've had a few very positive experiences with police, especially working in the anti-sexual-assault community, police who are specially trained for that and who really care about their work and helping survivors.

And I'm happy to hear that, since I have had similar experiences, which I kind of cherish, haha!

John F said...

But humans who are given authority, uniforms, weapons and power will often abuse those, and need to be watched and heavily regulated.I can't remember if you've ever blogged about the Stanford prison experiment. It's what I thought of as soon as I read what you wrote here. It should be required study material for all police trainees.

L-girl said...

"I can't remember if you've ever blogged about the Stanford prison experiment."

I don't know if I've done a post on it, but it's come up many times in comments and other contexts. Stanford and the Milgram Experiment, the one with the shocks.

I agree, it should be required study.

Kim_in_TO said...

But as I've gotten older I've become more skeptical of police claims, and more sympathetic to claims that police were starting or even inciting violence. Maybe because of the Internet; the mainstream media typically doesn't bother showing the non-establishment side of the story.This (mass media slant, police slant, and additionally, the blame always placed on protesters) becomes a lot clearer if you attend protests and see with your own eyes what goes on.