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Death of a Newspaper Salesman: A Case of Anti-Police Sentiment Gone Too Far

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I've long since tired of hearing about poor ol' Ian Tomlinson.

Who's he, you ask? If you were to believe any of the anti-police sentiment surrounding the incidence of his death, you'd think he was a completely innocent man on his way home from work, an angelic bystander who got attacked by the police for no reason.

Well, it's a bit more involved than that.

On April 1, the day of the anti-capitalist G20 protests that shut the City of London down, Tomlinson, a newspaper seller, was standing in the middle of the road, smoking a cigarette, blocking a police van and telling the police where they could go and what they could do with themselves. After stubbornly standing in their way for several minutes, Tomlinson was forced out of the road by riot officers.

Tomlinson continued to dawdle around the city for a half-hour after the incident, when he was shoved to the ground by an officer, who probably recognized him as a troublemaker. Witnesses say that Tomlinson reeked of alcohol. Tomlinson got back up moments later, after remonstrating with the officer who pushed him, and walked 200 feet before collapsing and dying. Initial reports were that Tomlinson died of a heart attack, though post-mortems revealed internal bleeding or an "abdominal haemorrhage."

So there you have it: This "innocent bystander" was a moron, a drunken slob, a defiant British bulldog type, with his cigarettes, his sweat pants and his "don't you tell me what to do, mate" attitude.

Yet people were outraged at his death, setting up a memorial to him outside the Bank of England and holding a memorial protest march for him on the following day, April 2. Which tells you all you need to know about how downgraded society has become. Our great, caring liberal society needs a poster boy on which to hang their grievances against the police — and Ian Tomlinson fit their bill perfectly.

Which brings up another loser who was on the receiving end of so much undeserved sympathy. Nicola Fisher, a former heroin addict who hasn't done a day's work in all of her 35 years, attended the memorial "service" near the spot where Tomlinson died. When she started arguing with a police officer, a sergeant with the Territorial Support Group, the officer in question smashed her legs with his baton.

However, this young woman, who believes so fervently that capitalism is evil, sold her story to the newspapers for £50,000, using media mogul Max Clifford as her agent. She felt a great need to tell us about her "ordeal," yet Conservative London Assembly member Brian Coleman remarked that "all right-thinking people will have little sympathy for her," and I entirely agree. But, all too predictably, all you heard from the media was how a large, violent policeman cowardly attacked a 115-pound woman.

We bash the police far too much, and we love it when somebody stands up to them, no matter how much that somebody resembles pond scum. What is it about society and the media, that they will stick up for the criminal elements and scroungers, simply because they walked into a well-deserved instance of police brutality? Why do we place so much trust in these rent-a-mobs and the violent gatherings of The Great Unwashed, society's leeches who criticize law-abiding, hard-working folks for the "crime" of earning (and having) money.

In the case of Nicola Fisher, who waved her finger in the policeman's face, the officer perceived a threat and he acted on it. Tomlinson, who was shuffling along directly in front of the officers moments before his death was perceived by the officer to be taunting them — which he just might have been — and the officer shoved him out of frustration. How on earth was the officer in question supposed to know that Tomlinson would die 15 minutes later?

The police, alas, are human; what's more, they do a very hard, thankless job, witnessing things that most other people never see, nor should ever have to. Except for right-wing tabloids, we never hear of policemen who die on the job, good policemen who took a bullet for a colleague or died in a crash or in any other way, protecting the public from thugs. Our reporting on matters of the police is distorted.

As I say, the police are human and they make mistakes. They aren't perfect and a few of them are bad apples. But considering society's approach to them, it's a wonder so many men and women still apply for the job of protecting an ungrateful public.

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  • DeadGuy

    All too often, those officers that “make mistakes” and kill someone, get off with little more than a slap on the wrist – if that. There is no one policing the police and they act above the law. They usually get away with it. They have also resorted to increasingly military like tactics for every situation, rather than just the truly dangerous situations. The police in the US and England are both guilty.

    That is why the mobs root for the low-life elements and the scum. If the police would take the officers responsible and punish them accordingly, there would be little need to protest them.

  • There are always two sides to the story, Mark, and you’ve done your best to present yours.

    Well, what follows is a number of links to help you and the audience to complete the picture:

    1) police assault

    2) tomlinson video

    3) riot

    4) another video

    5) assault

    Just for fair measure, if you know what I mean. (Links made available to me by Cindy, who I’m certain will pay you a nice visit.)

    A couple of questions, though. Why did it take so long for the story to come out? Why some of the officers involved in “subduing” Tomlison have removed their badges and tags so as not to be identified? Has the investigation into Tomlison’s death been concluded?

    You chose to conveniently to disregard these obvious questions by taking the easy route of assassinating Tomlison’s character: he deserved what he got because he was “low-life” and “scum.”

    I haven’t followed this issue since, but now I will, if only to see how objective you’ve been in presenting all the facts and whether the investigation into Tomlison’s death has concluded in the exact manner you say it did.

  • Thanks for a fair and balanced piece, Mark.

    What I find interesting, of course, you don’t address a number of issues. One, why did it take so long for the Metropolitan Police to come out with their story? Or why did some of the assaulting officers removed their badges, tags, covered their faces, so as not to be identified? And that’s just for starters, Mark.
    Has the investigation into Tomlinson death finally been concluded and the police exonerated. You don’t really tell us, I believe, but rather have us assume that it was.
    Well, thanks to your fair and balanced reporting, I will make it a point to look into it further, if only to see how fair and balanced you really are.

  • What is this article news or opinion? Either way, it requires a new heading–absolute rubbish.

    I’ll eventually finish my article on the G20 protests, Ian Tomlinson, militarization of and mobilization of police against society, and the brutality of police culture.

    The G20 protests are an extremely important event to examine regarding citizen rights and specifically rights to dissent. It should be examined by someone who isn’t completely unable to refrain from defending whatever government does at whatever cost to the facts.

    (thanks for your help with that Roger, just too busy at the moment to finish)

  • Well, I didn’t want to jump on this, Cindy, since this is your baby; but right now the interactive capability of the BC just isn’t there yet. They say they’ll fix it within a couple of days and I surely hope so, because at this moment it’s snail.

  • Meanwhile, Mark Manning, could you please provide references for some of your alleged ‘facts’ regarding Mr. Tomlinson. I would like to examine the credibility of your sources. Thanks in advance.

  • Is that it, Mark? It’s OK for the police to beat the crap out of somebody if they’re a bum or a drunk?

    And what about Nicola Fisher? What happened next?

    Not your best work, I fear.

    (The article, I mean, not breaking Ms Fisher’s legs!)

  • Correct, Dr. D. Mr. Manning presents the Metropolitan Police and its members as though they were helpless and untrained to properly deal with a presumed drunk. Give me a break. The way you’re telling your story, the police appeared to be scared shitless when confronted one unruly individual. Granted, the protest was on, but not being able to properly handle one unruly person in an efficient and professional manner? There’s definitely something amiss here, and I am really surprised that you fail to see that.

  • To be fair to Mark, I think his intent was to decry the tendency of the British public and media to kick up a stink about violence involving the police but not about violence involving the public.

    That said, the article is very poorly written and comes across rather as a paean to police brutality.

    It also ends abruptly, as if Mark abandoned it halfway through. (Perhaps he did: there are many teething troubles with the new site and this may be one of them.)

    There are two sides to this story, of course, and the police in Britain are often treated unfairly. They’ve yet to shake off the poor reputation they gained when the lid came off the corruption that was endemic in the force in the late 1970s.

    But it must be remembered that, compared to their colleagues in most other countries, the police in Britain are models of restraint and professionalism.

  • But it must be remembered that, compared to their colleagues in most other countries, the police in Britain are models of restraint and professionalism.

    From what I witnessed and read about the G20 police behavior. We’d better hope not.

  • And, to be more than ‘fair’ to mark, let’s be sure we are clear on his beliefs. He is saying that it is perfectly fine for a cop to physically attack and even kill someone for being ‘drunk’, ‘mouthing off’, ‘looking like a troublemaker’, or apparently ‘blocking traffic’.

    What kind of person says such incredible things?

  • I am definitely willing to extend the benefit of the doubt, especially in light of Mark’s prior pieces in which he definitely failed to come across as a hothead. And I do take you word for it insofar as the police in Britain is concerned; the very tradition of performing their duties without the aid of firearms would seem to argue for a better trained, more professional force. The videos however posted in comments #2 and #3 have really shocked me, especially in the wake Tony Blair’s regime. Though he supported the American initiative in Iraq, I wouldn’t think it was his policy to be this forceful with the opposition. And now with Gordon Brown in charge.

    I would see it as more appropriate in controlling the football crowds than a political demonstration.

  • I only want to know one thing. This Nicola woman got 50,000 quid for her story? Is there some way I can get partly beaten up and sell my tale of woe for 50,000 quid? That works out to about 250,000 shekels…. I could scratch by on that for a while….

  • Ah.

    I just got home and looked at this article on my own computer and saw that there is actually a second page, which for some reason the Internet Explorer browser doesn’t want me to know about. (Is it the nefarious CFR, Chatham House or the Bilderberg Group who was behind that, I wonder? 🙂 )

    Having now read the second page, I offer Mark an apology in that his article is indeed more rounded and finished than it first appeared.

    I’m still in general disagreement with his thesis, however. Tomlinson, from what can be seen in the video, was clearly intoxicated – wandering through a large demonstration as if it were Sunday in the park – and posing a danger not just to the police and general public but most significantly, considering where he was walking, to himself.

    That said, the police officer most definitely appears to be out of order. I’m not going to excuse his behaviour based on the possibility that Tomlinson was being a drunken jackass or insulted the officer’s mother. By the nature of their job, cops need to be held to a higher standard than general society. They are supposed to be keeping order, after all. And especially considering the situation at hand, where there were bound to be hundreds of witnesses and cameras. And most especially considering the reputation of the Territorial Support Group, which inherited its duties from the infamous Special Patrol Group, disbanded by former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Robert Mark in the early 80s in the wake of a spate of just this sort of thuggish incident.

  • wandering through a large demonstration as if it were Sunday in the park

    Actually he was on his way home from work and had gone a number of different ways trying to get around the ‘kettles’ that the police had made to hold non-violent people for 5 hours. There is much, much more to this story.

  • STM

    Doc, I think it was Chatham House.

  • STM

    And yes, the coppers did go a bit overboard.

    That does tend to happen though when baying lunatics are charging at you.

    The G20 protesters who went on the rampage were of the rent-a-crowd type (the usual uni-student trots, spartacists and assorted left-wing revolutionary loonies), whereas the early marches through London were very peaceful and aimed at making a salient point: that the G20 leaders had a responsibility to put a lid on the type of unregulated corporate greed that has destroyed so many lives this past 18 months or so).

    Unlike the US, where even a British Conservative Party voter would be regarded as suspiciously small-L “liberal” in the American sense, the mainstream “liberal” left in the UK (read: Labour voters) is actually one of the most conservative elements of British society.

    And Manning’s right: the Pommy cops generally are very politie and retsrained, if sometimes a bit officious.

    Hell, most of ’em don’t even carry guns and some of them are very tough cookies for that very reason.

    A bloke wandering home from work/pub didn’t deserve to die, though, no matter what. The other good thing about Britain is that it’s a genuine liberal democracy, and people are asking questions about it – from both sides of the fence.

  • The G20 protesters who went on the rampage were of the rent-a-crowd type…

    There was no rampage to speak of by protesters at the G20. A very small number broke bank windows after being ‘kettled’ (confined without cause) by police for hours with no access to food, water, or other services. Banners were turned into privacy screens so women could urinate. Video showed streams of urine where men were forced to relieve themselves in public.

    Some ‘kettled’ thus, were not even protesters. There is investigation now and a great deal of official discussion now to the effect that the aggressive police tactics instigated what little destruction there was.

    The only people on a rampage as witnessed in numerous videos and photos were the police themselves. They were violent and attacked protesters who were sitting and charged others, beat others with shields. They removed their ID, hid their faces and came prepared to engage in violence. It was later discovered some even bragged about this on police blogs.

    I followed the protest for the entire time it was in progress. I followed reported tweets, news, photos, and videos uploaded to the web by reporters and people who were there at the time.

    This event involved numerous dubious circumstances only a few of which are:

    1) Failure to release information.

    2) choice of the first coroner by police who normally, do not choose coroners. The coroner had also been charged with a problem in the past and ‘misconstrued’ the cause of death in favor of police.

    3) Clear photographic evidence, as well as substantial witness evidence that police lied about crucial aspects of events, failed to cooperate in offering aid to Mr. Tomlinson and prevented others from doing so.

    The IPCC (who promote themselves as one of the world’s greatest watchdogs) was about to drop the case when UK Guardian received video footage of Tomlinson’s attack.

    Suddenly the IPCC decided to take things seriously. Next all of the investigation is revealing a veritable indictment against the current police and IPCC actions by officials some of whom were past leaders in both the police and the IPCC.

    I am not surprised that RJ did not include the savage video of Nicola Fisher, who was first backhanded across the face by the officer who then went on to attack her again with his baton.

    RJ apparently believes that the State has the right of a dictatorial parent to slap people in the face and beat them for speaking.

  • Personally, I’m kind of taken aback that good ole Doc here and STM are bent on defending the Mets.

    I only wish they were as critical of their own ethnic-nationals as I happen to be of the Yanks.

    I daresay the world would be a far better place.

  • STM

    The London Metropolitan Police are a very good police force Roger. They are better than most, and The Met have a great record of catching crims.

    However, I don’t defend what happened. But like I say, Britain’s a great liberal democracy.

    Questions will be asked and the issue will be addressed at every level possible, including in the court of public opinion from every conceivable angle, even if it is too late for Ian Tomlinson.

  • Roger,

    Let me clarify that I’m defending the Met in general, not the actions of that particular officer or others involved in the Tomlinson and Fisher incidents.

    I disagree with the premise of Mark’s article because the role of the police is to protect the public and keep the peace, so when some young constable who thinks he’s Chuck Norris starts whacking away at the people he’s taken an oath to protect, and the command structure tries to cover it up instead of giving the kid a bollocking he’ll never forget, I’m extremely disappointed and pissed off.

    That said, 99% of the time the Met, and the British police service in general, exhibits a far higher level of professionalism than most forces overseas – including in the US. And as Stan observes, that has a lot to do with the fact that they don’t carry guns- and consequently are less prone to the power trips that being armed can bring to a stressful situation.

    What you don’t see on the news are the dozens of high-density crowd control situations which are policed without a hitch every single weekend – as people gather in their tens of thousands to watch their soccer team play.

  • Well, the way Mark presented his story is as though they couldn’t handle a single drunk. Handcuff the fucker, call the paddy wagon and haul him in to a sobering tank; that’s it.

    Too bad there aren’t videos surrounding the whole event, or that the Met was dragging its feet in handling this case. We shall have to wait and see, I guess, till the investigation concludes.

  • One thing the police in Britain suck at, unfortunately, is politics. General public order jobs such as sporting events usually go off just fine; it’s almost invariably only at demos like this where this sort of incident happens. The police are already seen by the demonstrators as an arm of the oppressors, so when a cop plays into that by lashing out, the command structure doesn’t have any more idea how to react appropriately than the officer did.

    Maybe there is something to be said for the American system of elected police chiefs and sheriffs…

  • Doc,

    What I was most surprised by this episode, Doc, was a painstaking slow response on the part of the higher echelon and your equivalent there of the Civilian Review Board. It’s as though there were completely caught by surprise – so unprepared they seemed. Had they jumped on it from the start and tried to get to the bottom of the case, they would have drawn that much criticism.

  • STM

    Roger, they’re not thaqt dumb. They knew they were going to cop a bollocking from certain sections of the British press.

    They just try to cover their arses but it doesn’t work because Britain being the kind of place it is, no one can hide anything or slide under the carpet anything of this nature without being brought to task.

    But they never seem to learn … especially in the police hiearchy

    The wheels of justice might turn slowly in Britain in relation to incidents like this, but once it’s out in the public arena and they start turning, the momemtum is unstoppable.

    I hold up my hero of 200 years ago, William Wilberforce, as an example, along with the James Somersett slavery/habeas corpus/ due process decision of the court of Kings Bench which occurred a couple of years before the American revolution (something with an Amerivan flavour so you cabn have some fun researching :).

  • Dr. D, my piece did not end abruptly, it was meant to end there. No more needed to be said (or so I thought).

    Stan, thanks for what seems to bear some resemblance of support here. Rare for you, but thanks anyway.

  • STM

    I don’t condone the death of anyone Mark in those circumstances, but if what I saw on TV was any gauge, the protestors were going bananas.

    There was a peaceful, huge march through London a few days earlier, and I thought … how long’s this going to last?

    What was the point of smashing the Bank of England in? They’ve been trying to help the average Briton by pumping money into the economy, with the British government propping up failed commercial and merchant banks all over the shop.

    The police were there to keep order. Bad stuff happens in that environment. My own experience of riot police is: they give you plenty of opportunities to move away, calm down, and disperse in an orderly fashion.

    The pommy cops are masters at it, because of the soccer crowds.

    That kind of incident shouldn’t happen (and as you know, plenty of questions are being asked of the police), but in the heat of the moment, you can see why it does.

    But if you want to avoid trouble in those circumstances, it’s usually not that hard.

    The trick is to stay away if you’re not protesting or intent on causing mayhem.

    Vehement protests I can live with; violence and mayhem’s not my bag.

  • STM

    It’s worth noting here for anyone who doubts this thing is NOW being looked at properly, the TSG copper alleged to have been involved and caught on camera is in a whole world of strife by the looks of things, along with a couple of his mates.

  • STM

    My understanding from a story I saw here recently is that he’s been questioned “under caution” … for Americans, read Pom equivalent of Miranda Rights.

    Once they start doing that, they’re really not messing around any longer.

  • Mark @ #26:

    I wrote that comment after I first read (half of) your article on the Browser From Hell (IE6). I didn’t realize there was a page 2 because no link to such was visible.

    See my #14, which I wrote after I got home, looked at the piece again on Safari (a browser that actually browses) and realized that you hadn’t just stopped dead in the middle of talking about Ms Fisher.