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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 April 2009

G20 Summit death: Independent inquiry into police violence, now!

AS REVELATIONS continue, surrounding the policing of the G20 and in particular the tragic killing of Ian Tomlinson at the hands of the police, questions about the role of officers and the specific tactics of 'kettling' (containing demonstrators for hours inside police cordons) increase.

Greg Maughan

While an initial, now discredited, autopsy claimed that Ian Tomlinson died of a heart attack, a second autopsy requested by his family revealed that he died of internal haemorrhaging. This was following a vicious and unprovoked beating at the hands of the police.

The horrifying images of this beating are now ingrained in the minds of many, thanks to the mobile phone recording taken by a passer-by. These images are being added to by the day as more and more protesters come forward with photos and videos of police violence.

In a Guardian-ICM poll, 59% of people were opposed to the police operation at the G20 demonstrations and important questions are being posed about the supposed 'neutrality' of the police.

Ian Tomlinson's death, and the many other violent incidents during the G20 protests, is a symptom of increasingly heavy handed and repressive policing methods by an unaccountable police force. In fact, the tiny hint of accountability forced upon them by independent photo and video footage has been met with criticism by police officers.

Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) chair Ian Hardwick stated: "There is going to be more evidence of what they have done and they don't see that as a positive thing."

While the investigation into Ian Tomlinson's death by the IPCC continues, little hope should be held that it will result in the prosecution for murder of the officer concerned or the abandonment of the intimidating and provocative tactic of 'kettling'.

The IPCC's track record shows that it is not genuinely independent. And only those cases considered the 'most serious' (just 100 in 2007-08) are investigated by the IPCC. All other investigations are referred to the local police force to conduct. In 2007-08 the IPCC received 28,000 complaints about the police (an 83% increase since its establishment in 2004) of which just over one in ten were judged to be substantiated.

What is needed is a genuinely independent inquiry into policing demonstrations, which includes representatives of protesters and trade unionists.

At the same time, the oppressive tactics of 'kettling' and other attempts to infringe upon our right to protest must be revoked. May Day detainee* and Socialist Party member Lois Austin is now going to the European Court to fight again to get the use of containment by police on demonstrations ruled illegal.

Meanwhile, workers will continue to peacefully protest against the iniquities of capitalism. In so doing, the labour movement needs to be organised and well stewarded to protect demonstrators against the oppressive practices of the police.

  • The May Day 2001 detainees were contained for up to nine hours by police with no warning.
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    In The Socialist 22 April 2009:

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    Socialist Party election campaign

    European elections: a workers' alternative to New Labour takes shape

    No2EU - yes to democracy

    Socialist Party youth and students

    Youth Fight for Jobs

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    Tesco: Every billion helps

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    International socialist news and analysis

    Tamil action to stop the war continues

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    Marxist analysis: history

    Betrayals that led to Thatcher's victory

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