Eyewitness Accounts of the Death of an Activist

April 2, 2009

Or, as it turns out, a newsagent (see below).

The Guardian is carrying details from witnesses at the scene of the death in Cornhill last night. These accounts contradict, police versions, and give a picture of how distressing and claustrophobic the policing had become by that stage.

23 year-old Jasper Jackson from London told the paper:

“The picture I have of him is of him stumbling in front of the protesters and in front of the police dogs looking dazed…He had a glazed look on his face. Then it was drawn to my attention that somebody shouted to the police with a loud hailer that there was a casualty and said, ‘Can we get a medic?’ “

“There were a couple of people throwing bottles in that general direction…But they were told to stop doing that by the crowd. In fact, some people in the crowd threatened to kill them if they did anything to disrupt the treatment.”

So it seems that if the police had worked with protesters, they could easily have treated the man on the spot without moving him, which was an extremely dangerous decision to make.

This is backed up by 26 year-old Elias Stokes, who said that while “One or maybe two plastic bottles were thrown…it was by people further back in the crowd who did not know what was going on” and “There definitely wasn’t a rain of bottles” while “The idea that protesters did not care is completely false.”

At the least the police could have erected a barrier with riot shields. The paper also backs up my recollection that “lines of riot police had been sweeping down the street just before the man fell in an attempt to move protesters away from the bank.”

This is precisely what I experienced. At the time it was worrying. The huge number of well armed officers and, apparently, dogs, sandwiched a small crowd of activists and bystanders. Inevitably, “Sporadic scuffles broke out, with police using their batons intermittently.”

Strangely, the paper asserts that “There is no suggestion that the man’s death was caused by anything other than natural causes.”

But in the next paragraph it quotes Fran Legg, who helped the dying man, as saying that “Her friend put the man in the recovery position and noticed he had blood on his face.”

This testimony is making the police claim that they had to move the man into the cordon owing to bottle throwing extremely questionable. Moving him may well have exposed him and the officers to greater risk of projectiles, as it necessitated moving him through two crowds of tightly packed protesters and riot police.

At the same time, protesters near the man were helping to protect him and trying to prevent bottles being thrown.

Other reports suggest that blood was on the man’s face.

Of course, he died of “natural causes.”

This could be a major development, and we need to press for justice.

BREAKING: Literally while writing this blog, the dead man has been named as Ian Tomlinson, a 47 year-old man and a “City resident.”

The Times reports that he was walking home from work, which was apparently at a local newsagents.


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