Although the reporting by The Guardian and others into the tragic death of Ian Tomlinson has helped to expose violent and, possibly, criminal actions by one of the police officers at the recent G20 demonstrations in London, I feel there is a danger that it is turning into a hunt for a ‘rogue’ individual who was out of control.  As many demonstrators and witnesses have confirmed, this was not an isolated incident; there were many other reports of people receiving the indiscriminate use of batons and police dogs.  The officer who allegedly assaulted Tomlinson was ‘unlucky’ in that this action resulted in a fatality and was captured on cameras.  But should he be made to take all the blame?  If officers were in fact ‘hyped up’ prior to the event to respond forcefully, who was responsible?  If this particular officer did mask his face and remove his identifying numbers, as reported in The Guardian, could this have happened without the consent and collusion of supervisors and fellow officers?
The aggressive behaviour of officers and the use of confrontational tactics such as ‘kettling’ is indicative of the way the police approaches public order when faced with dissent.  This is not new and will be familiar to anyone who has been on demonstrations, particularly in central London.  Indeed, for an example of how the more things change, the more they stay the same, people should read William Morris’s account of being attacked by police on a peaceful demonstration to Trafalgar Square (‘Bloody Sunday‘) in 1887, ‘London in a State of Siege‘ (compare these with the Metropolitan Police’s more self-serving account).

It is a great pity that it takes a fatality to open up the debate on the policing of protest.  Those concerned to ensure it is not repeated should act now to make it clear that this is not acceptable, even if only by adding our names to avaaz.org’s petition.