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Media quietly admits smearing G20 protestors


1:10 pm - April 3rd 2009

by Sunny Hundal    


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Oh look, the Metro reports today:

Eyewitnesses today described how protesters came to the aid of a man who collapsed and died during G20 demonstrations at the Bank of England. Police were involved in running battles with protesters in central London when the man, believed to be in his 30s, fell to the ground and stopped breathing.

“One or maybe two plastic bottles were thrown, but it was by people further back in the crowd who did not know what was going on. There definitely wasn’t a rain of bottles. There were lots of us gathered around him telling people to give him space. The idea that protesters did not care is completely false.”

This contrasts with the Evening Standard’s disgusting piece yesterday stating the police were ‘pelted with bricks’ when trying to help him – a story they quietly changed on their website later. The paper is a stain on London.

RIP Ian Tomlinson, a guy who was just walking by, and got caught in the Met Police’s delightful strategy of ‘kettling’ people in. BenSix has more.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Crime ,Our democracy

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Reader comments


1. douglas clark

Sunny,

Thanks for that.

It is about time that newspapers and the media generally were held to account.

This ‘kettling’ is pretty disgusting. So far I’ve not heard any politicians call for it to be stopped, or have I missed something?

The kettling strategy – while you can see the rationale – clearly needs rethinking.

Let’s hope this sad event makes that happen.

4. douglas clark

Sorry to appear to be hijacking this thread, but I’d assume there’ll be a post mortem?

And, hopefully, an inquest?

This death should not go uninvestigated.

cjcjc @3:

When you are afraid of mobs turning violent, seven thousand years of history make it bloody clear that the only way anyone can prevent a riot is to persuade them to disperse. You have to turn them into individuals again: rational beings, rather than a herd.

The way you ‘contain’ a protest is by ensuring it can get from its starting point to its finishing point without at any time being slowed down; that risks people being crushed, panicking, and something kicking off. You have to keep people moving forwards, keep people feeling that there is a way out. You also have to make sure they don’t accidentally divert and get lost, so you flank a route and then keep yourselves as unintrusive as possible. The police have managed this skillfully in a huge number of contexts, most noticeably the Countryside Alliance’s pro-hunt protests, which (for the most part, though not exclusively) were exemplar in terms of protest-police co-operation.

There is and can be only one rationale for penning crowds and then compressing the space available; make people more, not less, likely to riot. [1] It has a secondary utility widely reported outside the mainstream media from this protest; keep pressing them in and only allow reporters to leave. They’ll leave, cos it gets nasty in there; then you’ve taken away the official eye of oversight and can cry havoc in relative safety.

Well, they lost that bet. People carry cameras, people have mobiles, and people know how to get the word out. I knew about Ian Tomlinson from phone-calls by people on the ground long before the national press could get the word out: the picture you can put together from eye-witness reports and photos has been more coherent and complete than the official line since early yesterday morning. The official press leaving doesn’t mean you can fuck the crowd with impunity any more; I hope they learn that lesson.

[1] Another note, from the photo-narrative here: look at what’s described and depicted in the third picture down. If you are a hard-line senior copper and you’re not sure that the lads on the front line really have the stomach for putting a bit of stick about, the one way you can guarantee they will be ready when the time comes is to engineer a situation where two thin blue lines are back to back, surrounded by protesters. It immediately creates an impression in the minds of the coppers that they are under siege, and in London we have no Sam Vimes to talk them down. It also makes pictures that you can use to support a case for the protesters being the aggressors; yet throughout the rest of the narrative, you see civilians surrounded, hemmed and compressed by ranks of shields and traffic-jams of official vehicles.

6. Green Socialist

Heres a post on the tragic death by Green Party member and GP Richard Lawson

http://greenerblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/ian-tomlinson-what-happened.html

“There is and can be only one rationale for penning crowds and then compressing the space available; make people more, not less, likely to riot”

Really? I can think of another one. When you identify elements within the crowd bent on violence and causing a confrontation with the police you pen them in one place so that you can keep an eye on them. Sending in a snatch squad to arrest troublemakers may be seen as more provocative by the mass of protestors so containing everyone in – whilst unfortunately more inconvenient for peaceful people caught up in the situation – may be the most sensible means of keeping everything under control.

I’m not saying that the ‘kettling’ tactic shouldn’t be questioned, but these conspiratorial musings are a bit barmy. This was no Battle of the Beanfield.

8. Shatterface

When I tuned in to the news I saw so many blue helmets bobbing about I thought I’d put on one of Dr Manhatten & Silk Shadow’s home-made sex videos by mistake.

9. douglas clark

Jako,

I’m not saying that the ‘kettling’ tactic shouldn’t be questioned, but these conspiratorial musings are a bit barmy.

Why are you describing them as conspiratorial, exactly? They seem to me to be a pretty obvious operational failure in policing crowds. No conspiracy needed.

“Why are you describing them as conspiratorial, exactly? They seem to me to be a pretty obvious operational failure in policing crowds. No conspiracy needed.”

Douglas, the post I was replying to suggested that the police deliberately sought to encourage violence. It’s fair enough to argue that this was an “operational failure” (although I vehemently disagree) but to insist, as some are, that all violence on the day should be seen as the responsibility of the police; that the coppers orchestrated this; and that it was planned in advance by sinister dark forces in the police service smacks of conspiracy theory and lunacy to me.

11. Charlieman

If the purpose of “kettling” is crowd control, what is the justification for photographing and ID checking all of those who are being detained? It has been suggested that kettling is used because the police have identified troublemakers in a group and choose to detain the entire group, rather than sending in snatch squads. So if the police have already identified troublemakers, what gives them the right to record information about those who are not identified as troublemakers?

Today’s Guardian outlined some of the human rights actions that have (unsuccessfully) followed detention at previous demonstrations. I’ll argue that all protest organisers should have independent recorders (people who would be “moral, upstanding citizens” in the eyes of the Daily Mail).

Charlieman see my post on the “I blame police brutality”. The police are just transfering tactics from football that they have been using for 15-20 yrs. Forcibly detaining groups of fans, photographing them and taking personal details has been occurring for a long time. It happened to me several times in the 90s. Nobody from the Guardian gave a monkeyis. I can’t deny that some of the 100-200 or so “kettled” with me were hellbent on violence (though violence towards similar willing participants and not pathetic vandalism or attacking the Police) and t hat others were along for the ride, which is probably not too dissimilar to Weds. If you take off your leftie-tinted glasses you will see the Police are just doing their job and they are very effective at it.

Being part of a mob can be exhilirating. I could see that on the faces of the people involved in or around the petty vandalism and missile throwting. Its also easy to stand off against the Police, knowing you can shout obscenties at them, whilst procedures, accountability and the Media prevent them from reacting. Its cowardly.

Chavscum @13:

The police are just transfering tactics from football that they have been using for 15-20 yrs. Forcibly detaining groups of fans, photographing them and taking personal details has been occurring for a long time. It happened to me several times in the 90s. Nobody from the Guardian gave a monkeyis

You seem to be equating football-related tribal violence, which has no political point, no social conscience and no appeal other than the mindless and indiscriminate nature of its rage-relief, with peaceful political protests with broad-based popular support which are then carefully stage-managed by police until violence erupts. If you cannot see the underlying ethical and conceptual distinction between these, I am surprised.

though violence towards similar willing participants and not pathetic vandalism or attacking the Police

The only redeeming feature of sporting hooliganism used to be that it was aimed entirely at other hooligans. It was Reds out to fight the Blues. However, that changed: specifically, the generation of hooligans you claim to be one of, here, changed it. I remember it happening, I was back here by then. The turning point was Euro 96. That was when the violence turned from being primarily aimed at other fans, and then directed at the furnishings when the police got in the way to being explicitly organised to completely trash city-centres and to be used as an excuse for looting shops. Look at the recent incidents with Scottish fans in (wasn’t it Manchester?).

You have to keep people moving forwards,

How does that apply to last week, where the marches were all converging on one relatively small space??

“You seem to be equating football-related tribal violence, which has no political point, no social conscience and no appeal other than the mindless and indiscriminate nature of its rage-relief, with peaceful political protests with broad-based popular support which are then carefully stage-managed by police until violence erupts. If you cannot see the underlying ethical and conceptual distinction between these, I am surprised.”

I’m not equating football with political marches, I’m just helping the forum broaden their knowledge, as a number of contributors appear fairly ignorant of the World outside their narrow political obsessions. Do you know some 3,000 people are subject to travel banning orders, sometimes without being convicted of any offence? Are human rights only applicable to people claiming ethical political views?

Yes, I agree with the right to demonstrate, but the march was held in an area of London with dense, narrow streets. The intention was to disrupt a normal working day in the City. From that point on, the sympathies of reasonable people have been lost. There was no popular support for the march. 5,000 people in a City of 8m is pathetic. More than that marched to protest against the close of my local hospital’s A&E.

Within the well behaved demonstrators were a significant minority out to commit cowardly acts of violence against the Police and vandalise private property. This is a similar position that has occurred at football matches, where the Police identify core troublemakers and attempt to hold them for lengthy periods. Such manoeuvres will inconvenience innocent people, but this is a fair side-effect of the end result which is to maintain law and order.

Your claimed social conscience is actually political activism, which does not give you the right to special treatment from authorities. If you had a real social conscience you’d be outside the local mosque campaigning against religious persecution against women or you’d be spending your spare time helping those that are not just the misfortunes of their own self-determination, such as the disabled or the elderly.

Instead, as indoctrinated lefties, you see the wealthy, the industrious and authority as the enemy. Many lefties live in some kind of 19thC socialist dreamland, where they are fighting against a nobility controlled State and they are the defenders of the serfs. Identifying the Police as the soldiers of the big bad capitalists and screaming brutality because you had your photo taken and your mate had his white dreadlocks pulled, allows you to be the victim. Claiming victim status is the dream of most lefties because their middle-class, privileged, educated backgrounds has disqualified them thus far.

cjcjc @15:

A good point. There, the answer that works (again, see the Countryside Alliance protests when it was still possible to protest near Parliament) is you let ’em assemble, and you ensure that there are sufficient, large, and above all visible exits from that space, and you keep an eye. The fastest thing that will screw with a crowd is the moment someone wants to leave to go to the loo, or the pub, or (you know) home, and is stopped. They will go back asking questions, getting confused. Confused humans get scared. People will try to leave, through fear or through interest. That word will spread, and then all of a sudden you have an active confrontation: we want to leave, they want to stop us. Then you just wait.

I’ve written about the reports at What I Saw: which include the gem (from an official medic, working with the medical team inside Climate Camp) “A thousand people trapped in a single street for four hours with six buckets to serve as toilets? The pavement ran with urine.” If you want to really piss off (and, apparently, on) a bunch of pacifists…

While Chavscum may be right, I would like to know a few more details.

What was agreed – if anything – with the police beforehand, in terms of start times, routes and dispersal time?

I understand kettling, and I don’t condemn it, but I certainly don’t like it, and if used it needs good justification afterwards.

John Q – wasn’t the “broad based” march on the Saturday beforehand??

Not all demonstrations have agreements with police about start times, routes and dispersal times. The freedom to demonstrate shouldn’t be contingent on police agreeing those things.

Chavscum @16:

Do you know some 3,000 people are subject to travel banning orders, sometimes without being convicted of any offence? Are human rights only applicable to people claiming ethical political views?

Yes. Three of them trashed my bar in 1996 because England had won a football match. And I mean trashed, they broke the front doors by using my pool table as a battering ram and left it outside, smashed the optics, broke tables and set a pile of chairs on fire. And that was when they won. How’s that for the destruction of private property, and an attack on free enterprise?

When you equate police handling techniques against the organised fight-gangs of 90s football hooliganism; and when you ignore the fact that the travel orders are a direct result of organised groups of hundreds of football fans traveling to other European cities, without match tickets, specifically to practice nationalist and racist violence, then yes, you are equating protest with hooliganism.

When you fail to distinguish between the vandals at the Bank and the peaceful protesters at the Climate Camp, you fail as a disputant.

The intention was to disrupt a normal working day in the City. From that point on, the sympathies of reasonable people have been lost.

Actually, that doesn’t seem to be true. For a start, disruption is precisely the same as strike action, no more no less. They both involve groups using their physical presence to cause economic disruption, because it gets governmental attention. So you’re talking about the same protest actions which got women the vote, got racism banned and got the British out of India. Reasonable people sympathised with all of these and many reasonable people sympathise with the victims of the Climate Camp invasion.

Such manoeuvres will inconvenience innocent people, but this is a fair side-effect of the end result which is to maintain law and order.

And yet it has become clear that order, certainly, was very specifically compromised by this policing tactic. A group of people who had been listening to a stereo powered by a bicycle, eating food, chatting, playing guitars and sometimes sleeping were baton charged, their sound system was wrecked, all of their personal property was destroyed and skipped. Their medics were themselves attacked while working. It has become clear that protesters who were peaceful were squeezed and detained by police until they began to chant “Let us out”: whereupon they were baton charged and their response was to sit down with their backs to the police. That’s not maintaining law and order; that’s attacking people who are sitting down.

If you had a real social conscience you’d be outside the local mosque campaigning against religious persecution against women or you’d be spending your spare time helping those that are not just the misfortunes of their own self-determination, such as the disabled or the elderly.

Actually, no I wouldn’t, because the way you deal with mistreatment of women in traditional Muslim communities is by inter-faith dialogue with the moderate Muslim leaders and communities, and by supporting womens’ shelters in places like Southall. Which I have done, and have personally helped protect from vandalism and an attempted arson attack, as an activist in the 1990s. I am involved in mental health activism, and am involved in the planning stages of a charity project. Please do not make assumptions about my social conscience. I make none about yours: I simply disagree with your persistent attempts to categorise the Climate Campers as equivalent to organised football violence.

Instead, as indoctrinated lefties, you see the wealthy, the industrious and authority as the enemy. Many lefties live in some kind of 19thC socialist dreamland, where they are fighting against a nobility controlled State and they are the defenders of the serfs. Identifying the Police as the soldiers of the big bad capitalists and screaming brutality because you had your photo taken and your mate had his white dreadlocks pulled, allows you to be the victim.

Trouble is, I’m not really a leftie. Never have been. I didn’t vote for Labour in 1997, and my views on personal weapon ownership, education and party organisations would put me well outside the ‘left’ mainstream even if none of my other opinions did. I’m an historian by academic training: I know a great deal about the periods of British society that have been repressive and those which have been enlightening; I know the difference between aristocracy, oligarchy and plutocracy and I know the difference between having ‘white dreadlocks pulled’ and medics wearing red crosses being batoned in the head, stomach and knee while trying to work on a man bleeding from a head-wound.

Ad hominem attacks are always a rhetorical flaw, but often they are an effective one; “playing the man instead of the ball”. However, if you’re going to attack the person behind the opinions, it really helps to know what you’re talking about.

cjcjc @18:

The fact that there were, by my count, at least four different protests organised by different groups with broadly coherent aims (if differing in emphasis) suggests to me a broad spectrum of support for shouting at the leaders of the free world. The biggest, and the one which will have had the largest effect on what happened in the room, was indeed the Saturday before; but the ones which have had the largest effect on the debate in the UK and abroad are the ones which got all the media attention, because they happened while the Obamas were in town and because they involved pretty girls bleeding from the head on the pavement.

If there is more than one point which needs making, you’ll find some getting less attention. The Climate Camp guys wanted to raise the profile of their point; which is that we need to start globalising state efforts to combat resource depletion and climate change. They’ve got a major debate off the ground by sitting down and getting beat on by policemen; the tactics of several famous people whose names have been thrown around a lot this week.

This is a point which is being made again & again. Chav assumes we are all part of some middle-class nexus with PC opinions about everything, but that applies to few if any here.

I regard myself as being on the left, but support immigration restrictions which are tougher than those currently in place & other things which make me far from being a stereotypical luvvie. I am also wholly working-class in terms of income, what I do for a living & where I live.

Most people who comment here are aware of the homophobia & misogyny within Islam. My solution is to only support women’s refuges & the general empowerment of women & liberal-minded elements, to support assimilation (for example, by altering council housing allocations etc of the kind which lead to segregation in cities), & to have a completely secular focus from the state, for example by withdrawing taxpayer subsidies to “faith” schools.

I do not see the Muslim world as one homogenous mass of enemies, as well over half of them are receptive to liberalism & a challenge to unacceptable attitudes will find more than enough takers. Yes, a lot of the left have lost their way in this regard, but I don’t see what effective measures the right would support that differ from those described above.

I suppose your post was relatively polite by your standards, but it still misses the mark because of wild, mistaken generalisations which will get you nowhere.

Douglas Clark – the good news is that yes, the Police Complaints Commission is to have an inquiry into the death of Ian Tomlinson. The bad news – ‘City of London Police will carry out the inquiry on behalf of the watchdog.’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7986192.stm

In other news: Alex Ferguson appointed as referee for Manchester United’s FA Cup semi-final against Everton.

Jako – you’re right that kettling contains troublemakers. Unfortunately it contains everyone else too. This is clearly not the ‘facilitating peaceful protest’ the police talk of. Quite the opposite, kettling – like the random batoning of heads – seems designed to discourage people from coming on demonstrations in future.

It is part of a vision that sees anyone who’d come to a protest as a security threat. Kettling may or may not have contributed to the death of Ian Tomlinson, but either way it will certainly lead to deaths.

D’oh. Edit fail.

There’re two links there: one two the Guardian’s new video page, and then (just the quotation at the end of the paragraph) a link to Dave Hill’s time-stamped report from the ground, whence the quote is drawn.

The media smearing goes much further than that —

http://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/2009/04/correcting-the-media-narrative-of-the-g20-protests-on-april-1-2009/

“But this idea – that the kettle might have provoked the “clashes”, and that the police might therefore be responsible for the “violence” – is remarkably absent from virtually all of the reams of press coverage of the protests. We do, of course, have a spectrum of opinion: whereas the right-wing Daily Mail sees the protestors as “a fearsome group of thugs”, a “bizarre group of misfits” fuelled by “Dutch courage” and a “willingness to use violence” (April 1), for the left-wing Guardian only “a minority of demonstrators seemed determined to cause damage” whilst “much of the protesting” was “peaceful” (April 1).”

“When it’s about intimidating the bloody hippies, it’s about escalation. A peaceful protest can be turned into a riot in only 6 hours if you stop people leaving ’til after they’ve had to piss in their boots. “They’d have to let us out eventually, so why extend this to the point where they’d made people more volatile, not less?””

Actually, the reverse is true. When you are contained for hours your aggression subsides and you become resigned to your fate. Afterwards, you just want to go home.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    New post: Media quietly admits smearing G20 protestors http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2009/04/03/media-quietly-admits-smearing-g20-pro

  2. sciamachy

    RT: @libcon: New post: Media quietly admits smearing G20 protestors http://is.gd/quZJ – no rain of bottles, dead man died in kettled crowd

  3. Liberal Conspiracy

    New post: Media quietly admits smearing G20 protestors http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2009/04/03/media-quietly-admits-smearing-g20-pro

  4. sciamachy

    RT: @libcon: New post: Media quietly admits smearing G20 protestors http://is.gd/quZJ – no rain of bottles, dead man died in kettled crowd

  5. Alex Plough

    More #g20 flat earth news. http://tinyurl.com/cgpk7y

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  7. Insta-reaction post. « Embololalia

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