Did police kill G20 protester in London? (Updated: not looking good)

2 April 2009

Article title preserved for posterity but it’s clear now that Ian Tomlinson was not a protester and was just walking home from work. Please see the updates in the comments at the bottom of this post.


Unnamed: The protester who died. Photo: public domain via Guardian


Photo by Alex Watts.

I’m shocked and saddened that a man died during the G20 protests in London yesterday.

Every death potentially related to police activity is automatically investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. But while their inquiry is in progress, the truth about this incident needs to surface, and soon.

Mainstream media reporting has spun this story away from its most obvious potential substance – policing tactics – to the alleged behaviour of the protesters themselves who the police say attacked police medics trying to give assistance to the dying (or perhaps, dead) man.

The Telegraph dutifully repeats the police allegations as fact without troubling themselves with any corroboration:

[A]s officers went to the man’s aid, they were pelted with bottles and other missiles, forcing them to retreat.

The Times at least paraphrases its source:

The Met said that as the officers tried to revive the man they came under attack from protesters who threw bottles at them

The Guardian is also happy to repeat the story without corroboration:

A man died last night during the G20 protests in central London as a day that began peacefully ended with police saying bottles were thrown at police medics trying to help him.

Meanwhile over on Twitter, @jdodds writes:

Talking to eye witnesses from yesterday.protester who died had symtoms related to a head wound.was seen to be hit by truncheon

If true, this puts a wholly different light on events. There isn’t any dispute that the man died within the police cordon near the junction of Birchin Lane and Cornhill between 7 and 8pm yesterday. Did he die from natural causes? Were these aggravated by effectively being detained on the street, possibly without food or drink? Did he suffer a head wound and was it caused by the police? Did the cordon itself prevent him receiving timely treatment? How did the other protesters react? Violently? Helpfully?

We don’t know, but given that the police have been very quick to tell the tale about the “attack” on them by protesters but were wholly unable to give any indication as to why the man may have died, it’s about time we found out.

As I write there is a protest against the man’s death taking place near the Bank of England, where tributes have been left.