Bystander Ian Tomlinson was hit by a policeman and died during G20 protests last week. The right to peaceful protest is a vital part of our democracy — tell the Home Secretary and the Metropolitan Police to fix the flaws in British protest policing now and prevent any more deaths like this:
Peaceful protests can change the world. Last week’s G20 summit wouldn’t have taken the decisions it did without the non-violent pressure hundreds of thousands of citizens brought to bear — like our peaceful march with thousands of green hard hats the weekend before the G20.
The protests in the City of London immediately before the summit were rowdier than our own, but still overwhelmingly peaceful despite media hysteria, aggressive policing and a handful of troublemakers. Tragically, one man died that day — bystander and newspaper-seller Ian Tomlinson. Now video footage shows that he was struck down by a masked, baton-wielding policeman.
We’ve worked with the police on our own public demonstrations, and they play an essential role in making peaceful protest possible. But not for the first time, the police lost their way at these City protests — using excessive force, starting to criminalise the peaceful majority and creating pressure-cooker confrontations instead of defusing them. Enough is enough — the British tradition of peaceful public protest is too important to lose. Follow this link to watch the video and sign the emergency petition to fix British policing of demonstrations — we’ll deliver it directly to the Home Secretary, Parliament and the Metropolitan Police:
The Independent Police Complaints Commission is now investigating Ian Tomlinson’s death minutes after he was struck down — but he was far from the only innocent person injured by violent police tactics on April 1st, as a growing flood of dependable eyewitnesses’ testimonies and videos have begun to reveal. This is not an isolated incident. It points to wider failings in the policing of demonstrations in the UK in recent years.
The policy of “kettling” (penning in people including bystanders, families and those who want to move on, often for ten hours or more) seems to create a pressure-cooker atmosphere of frustration and confrontation. Instead of isolating and removing the handful of troublemakers who wrecked the Royal Bank of Scotland branch, the police responded by cracking down on the peaceful majority, confining them, forcing them to give personal information, and charging them with batons and dogs. This cannot be right.
The separate and wholly-peaceful “climate camp” on Bishopsgate was subject to similar imprisonment and baton-charges. Initial police statements about these events have often turned out to be misleading. As well as constraining rights of assembly, new laws now supposedly prohibit taking the very photos and videos of police officers which have begun to reveal the truth of these events.
We can’t let this slide toward unaccountability continue. Many of those policing this demonstration wore balaclavas or took their identification numbers off. By telling the media before the protests that they were “up for it” if violence ensued, commanding officers were whipping up dangerous hysteria. As Andy Hayman, the former Assistant Commissioner of the Met wrote yesterday: “If left unchecked, we have a more violent crowd in uniform than the crowd demonstrating.”
This is ultimately a question of government policy and accountability — so we’ll deliver the petition to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and the Home Affairs Committee of Parliament as well as the Metropolitan Police, and alert the media to raise wider awareness of this effort.
After Ian Tomlinson’s death, it’s time to fix the policing of demonstrations in Britain. Sign the emergency petition at the link below, and share this message with friends, family and colleagues:
With hope and determination,
Paul, Alice, Iain and the whole Avaaz team
Sources: Avaaz video from peaceful London G20 demonstration:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOkEdJGfrCw&eurl The Guardian — “New video footage from G20 protests gives fresh angle on attack”:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2009/apr/08/g20-police-assault-ian-tomlinson-video Chris Abbott, Open Democracy — “Trapped and beaten by police in Climate Camp”: