Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ian Tomlinson Memorial March

This Saturday I attended a protest march from Bethnal Green Police Station to the Bank of England. The aim of the march was both to remember Ian Tomlinson who died after being pushed over and apparently hit by police during the G20 protests last week and to protest against the tactics of the Police that increasingly undermine Britain's status as a democracy that values the right of protest and free speech.

While it is safe to say that many of those on the march today were not my natural bedfellows, I found it a peaceful, dignified and rather moving event. The Police, to their credit, were low key and respectful and there was absolutely no trouble. Maybe something good can yet come out of these tragic events.

However the message from today was that a protestor is not a criminal and the right to peacefully protest in an unhindered manner is under threat in Britain. If this erosion of liberty goes unchallenged all Britons are on the road to living in a more repressive country. It may not be "your issue" to protest on today but in a country, and in fact a world, where decisions are increasingly made by executive order, it will probably not be long before each and everyone of us have an issue on which we want to protest on. While street protest is not everyone's style the increasing limitations of democracy (heavily controlled parliaments and legislatures that do not want to rock the boat) means that often it is only after a significant protest that the government actually sits up and listens.

May the right to peaceful protest and free speech once again be respected and better valued in this country.


One of the "dreaded" Police medics made infamous by this Flickr photo which yesterday made it to a national newspapers.

Press pack and amateurs stand outside Bethnal Green tube station as the protestors set off. The "citizen photographer" has lead the way on the whole issue of Police conduct and the attack on Ian Tomlinson. Without the widespread proliferation of mobile phone cameras and affordable digital cameras, the whole incident could have been swept under the carpet. These days a photo can be taken by a private individual and made freely available on the internet within minutes. When Ian Tomlinson died, the official version was he had collapsed and died of a heart attack but had had no contact with Police whatsoever. Alarmingly all mainstream media outlets (newspapers and TV) accepted this without challenge. Only when photos, written accounts and ultimately video emerged from private citizens did the mainstream media bother to investigate.

Market traders and locals await the protestors on Bethnal Green road. This is the heart of the East End and one of the most ethnically mixed areas in London.

Professor Chris Knight, one of the organisers of the original G-20 meltdown protests head the march. He strikes a slightly theatrical pose wearing a black top hat. The flowers are to lay at the spot Ian Tomlinson died.

The junction of Royal Exchange Passage and Cornhill where Ian Tomlinson was pushed to the ground by Police on 1st April.

Protestors in Cornill mingling near the spot Ian Tomlinson died.

The Police kept a respectful distance most of the time.

One strained moment occured when a two minutes silence was held. Officer CW 2553 (pictured) had a rather noisy Police radio and the chap in the football wooly hat told him to turn it down. Officer CW 2553 didn't like this and a tense exchange followed to be calmed by fellow protestors and police.

This sign on Cornhill, in the heart of the City of London, is just above the spot where Ian Tomlinson died.

Officers stand on Cornhill in front of Royal Exchange Passage. Their respectful calm behaviour is in great contrast to the riot gear wearing bullies who had walked down this passage with dogs just over a week before.

Where it all started last week, the Bank of England.

Police vans line up outside the RBS branch briefly attacked by anarchists on 1st April. The banking crisis is the underlying background to all this. People at large feel frustrated that there is no effective way to make their voices heard. The bail out is a fait accompli with no democratic vote on it. Taxpayers in Britain and the world over are funding the failures of bankers. There is a palpable sense of anger when people whose jobs and homes are at risk see bank bonuses and vast pensions subsidised by their taxes. No other bank has come to symbolise this injustice more than RBS, once a greatly respected Scottish institution.

Police motorcyclists on Threadneedle Street.

Protestors on Bishopsgate. "Socialist Worker" seems to have a monopoly on the banners supplied. I think it is a shame that no one other than an extreme left group can distribute good quality printed banners. After all, liberty is an issue that should attract the support of those on "the right" as well.

Protestors enter the City of London. The contrast between Bethnal Green and the City is immense. However they are really just neighbours and one stop on the underground.

Into the City.

Professor Chris Knight on the steps of Bethnal Green Police station where many of those arrested during the G20 summit were taken. This was not a part of London that Messrs. Obama, Sarkozy and co included on their itinerary !

1 comment:

Barry said...

Interesting photos. Thanks for sharing....