April 05, 2009

Man dies, now listen to Lenin

It must happen to all bloggers that they occasionally wish they'd thought of a headline they see on another blog. So it was with Richard Seymour's Accidental death of an anarchist post on Lenin's Tomb. It was about the death of this chap who seems to have somehow got caught up in the G20 protests on Monday (April 1, 2009). I may not have thought there was anything amiss with the first reports of the man's death if it wasn't for that post.

The Guardian reported thus:
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.

The man had collapsed within a police cordon set up to contain the crowds who had assembled in central London and the City to protest over the G20 summit. There were 63 arrests on the day.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission was being notified last night. Scotland Yard said the alarm had been raised by a member of the public who spoke to a police officer on a cordon at the junction of Birchin Lane and Cornhill in the City.

He sent two medics through the cordon line and into nearby St Michael's Alley where they found a man who had stopped breathing. They called for ambulance support at about 7.30pm and moved him back behind the cordon where they gave him cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

"The officers took the decision to move him as during this time a number of missiles – believed to be bottles – were being thrown at them", said a police statement. The ambulance service took the man to hospital where he died.

A London ambulance spokesman said: "Our staff immediately took over the treatment of the patient and made extensive efforts to resuscitate him both at the scene and on the way to hospital."

The directorate of public standards at both the Metropolitan and City of London police had been informed, the statement said. One protester at the scene said the man was in his 30s and died of natural causes, the Press Association news agency reported.

And here's Richard:
As you have heard by now (well, not if you rely on the BBC, which has to my knowledge devoted a single line to the topic), a man died in the police 'kettle' yesterday, where protesters were held for seven hours without food, water, or toilet facilities. In order to forestall criticism of the tactic, which is now a legally mandated crackdown on the right to protest, the police have claimed that they were prevented from helping the man at the scene by members of the crowd throwing bottles at medics. Now, given that the cops lie on every possible occasion when they get into trouble (De Menezes, the Koyairs, to name but a couple), given their absolute contempt for the general public, there is every reason to disbelieve them. I am not saying they are trying to subvert the IPCC process in advance, but I'm certainly thinking it very loudly. I would also be wary of the press. Most reports are relying on one unnamed source to say that the man was aged about 30, and died of "natural causes". A thirty year old man could die of natural causes, but unless this witness was a doctor I am reluctant to take this as the conclusive word on the matter.
Next up, I can't remember when I knew but the guy turned out to be 47.

Now the Observer (and the Guardian website) is reporting that the "Police 'assaulted' bystander who died during G20 protests." So what are they saying now?
The man who died during last week's G20 protests was "assaulted" by riot police shortly before he suffered a heart attack, according to witness statements received by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Investigators are examining a series of corroborative accounts that allege Ian Tomlinson, 47, was a victim of police violence in the moments before he collapsed near the Bank of England in the City of London last Wednesday evening. Three witnesses have told the Observer that Mr Tomlinson was attacked violently as he made his way home from work at a nearby newsagents. One claims he was struck on the head with a baton.

Photographer Anna Branthwaite said: "I can remember seeing Ian Tomlinson. He was rushed from behind by a riot officer with a helmet and shield two or three minutes before he collapsed." Branthwaite, an experienced press photographer, has made a statement to the IPCC.

Another independent statement supports allegations of police violence. Amiri Howe, 24, recalled seeing Mr Tomlinson being hit "near the head" with a police baton. Howe took one of a sequence of photographs that show a clearly dazed Mr Tomlinson being helped by a bystander.

A female protester, who does not want to be named but has given her testimony to the IPCC, said she saw a man she later recognised as Tomlinson being pushed aggressively from behind by officers. "I saw a man violently propelled forward, as though he'd been flung by the arm, and fall forward on his head.

"He hit the top front area of his head on the pavement. I noticed his fall particularly because it struck me as a horrifically forceful push by a policeman and an especially hard fall; it made me wince."

Mr Tomlinson, a married man who lived alone in a bail hostel, was not taking part in the protests. Initially, his death was attributed by a police post mortem to natural causes. A City of London police statement said: "[He] suffered a sudden heart attack while on his way home from work."

But this version of events was challenged after witnesses recognised the dead man from photographs that were published on Friday.

So, as Lenin's Tomb is saying, this death has gone from being the accidental death of an anarchist to the not so accidental death of a bystander.

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