Tue, 07 Apr 2009

A public inquiry into police brutality is necessary

Police brutality kills

Last week a man being detained in a police kettle, during the G20 demonstrations, died. It was after 7pm, he had finished his day's work at a newsagent and wanted to go home. A video shot minutes before he collapsed shows him walking with his hands in his pocket and being violently pushed to the floor by a baton-wielding riot police officer. The police detained and assaulted many peaceful demonstrators in these so called kettles where a police cordon blocks anyone from leaving (or even getting in). This tactic was recently ruled lawful by the Law Lords and the case is now on its way to the European Court of Human Rights. As kettling is a form of detention, the death of Ian Tomlinson likely amounts to a death in custody.

A post mortem carried out by a Home Office pathologist revealed that Mr Tomlinson died of a heart attack. "The family have arranged a second postmortem examination to take place later this week" explained a statement read out by Jules Carey, solicitor for Mr Tomlinson's family. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is managing an investigation by City of London Police into the circumstances of police contact with Ian Tomlinson "to independently investigate the alleged assault by police on Ian Tomlinson shortly before his death. The investigation will also look into whether that contact may have contributed to his death."

As was the case when Jean-Charles de Menezes was killed, the police statements to the media were wrong and remained uncorrected on the following days. A week later, the IPCC is saying that the CCTV cameras overlooking the incident were not working after initially claiming that there "were no cameras in the location where he was assaulted."

Read some witness statements here and here.

The picture above is by Bethnal Green police station (where some demonstrators have been detained after being arrested) at the end of a march against police brutality and in memory of Ian Tomlinson. Another one is planned for this Saturday, this time from Bethnal Green police station to Bank, starting at 11:30am.

There must be a public inquiry into police brutality reviewing Mr Tomlinson's death, the unprovoked violent behaviour of some police officers and the general police tactics, such as kettling, when managing peaceful demonstrations.

First published 2009-04-07; last updated 2009-04-11.

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