Monday 27 April 2009

Children's Photos from India

Great to see Debbie yesterday, who has been out in India since last year, at a meeting of the Buwan Kothi International Trust.

She brought back photos taken by some of the children at the Gilly Mundy Memorial Community School, who had been taught by her to use digital cameras and then asked to take pictures of their home, family or community. The results are fascinating - and I've turned then into a video clip:

I think Gilly would really have loved the idea behind this...

Friday 24 April 2009

Paul Mason Book Event in Stratford E15

Paul Mason, the economics editor of BBC Newsnight who wrote the brilliant 'Live Working or Die Fighting', is launching the paperback edition of 'Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed' at 7pm at Stratford Circus, Theatre Square, London E15 on Thursday 7 May.

The event is organised by Newham Bookshop and tickets are a fiver.

Meltdown tells the story of the financial crisis that destroyed the West's investment banks, brought the global economy to its knees, and undermined three decades of neoliberal orthodoxy. Covering the credit crunch and its aftershocks from the economic front line, Mason explores the roots of the US and UK's financial hubris, documenting the real world causes and consequences from the Ford Factory, to Wall Street, to the City of London.

In response to the immense challenge now facing the existing economic system, he outlines an era of hyper-regulated capitalism that could emerge from the wreckage.

Support Newham's only independent bookshop and pop along. Tickets are on sale at Stratford Circus or are available on the night.

Formerly Known As Innocent

I wanted to reproduce the following from the brilliant and lovely Mark Thomas, in response to the decision by the supposedly ethical and fluffy Innocent Drinks [makers of expensive smoothies] to take a £30 million investment from Coca Cola:

Hi Richard,

I just wanted to drop you a note regarding your new found partnership with Coca Cola. An acquaintance mailed you earlier today and passed your response on to me. There are some fundamental factual inaccuracies and ignorance in your reply. You wrote:

"As a business, Coke are definitely not perfect (although it is worth saying that independent judicial enquiries at the time found that the Columbia (sic) allegations to be unfounded, the same with India water although I am nervous about saying these things as it makes it sound like I am here to represent Coke, which I am not). But they do show a relatively good track record in learning and making good on the things
they get things wrong. And the people we've met have been decent, ordinary folk."

The allegations against Coca Cola in Colombia are simple: trade unionists working for the company have been intimidated and murdered, in one case Isidro Segundo Gil was killed inside the plant, virtually under the Coca Cola logo, to this day Coca Cola have not had any independent investigation into the allegation that managers of the bottling plants in Colombia colluded with or directed the para military death squads. The murders happened over 12 years ago.

Your response states that "independent judicial enquiries at the time found that the Colombia allegations to be unfounded," What independent judicial enquiries are you referring to? The Colombian judicial system has managed to investigate, prosecute and convict about 1% of the trade unionist murders, out of thousands. So any investigations conducted in Columbia are hardly independent and barely qualify as enquiries.

Or do you refer to the USA court case? Here the Alien Tort Claims Act is being used to try and get the Colombian bottlers and the parent company in the dock. But it can't be that one as initially the case was found to be inadmissible (though it is being appealed), so this is obviously not the 'independent judicial enquiries' that you refer to, is it?

So what 'independent judicial enquiries" are you referring to?

You do not mention the fact that the Coca Cola Company tried to silence the Colombian trade unionists who brought the case against them in the USA. Coke offered to settle out of court to the tune of about $13 million on condition that they give up their jobs working in the Coke bottling plants and that the trade unionists never ever criticise Coke nor any other company that work with Coke in the future. Had the trade unionists signed and taken the $13 million they would break the terms of the settlement and be liable to court action if they criticised you Richard.

Neither do you mention the trade union busting of the company bottlers. The cases of Coke plant managers falsifying evidence against trade unionists, accusing them of terrorism. resulting in innocent men wrongly imprisoned for 6 months before the charges against them being dismissed.

You do not mention the fact that over some 15 years the company bottlers have gone from about 80% of the work force being in permanent employment with 20% casual labour to the situation we now find, where 20% of the work force is permanent and 80% casualised with no rights to even join a trade union.

Richard, I have spent some time in Colombia interviewing and taking testimony from people who witnessed Isidro Segundo Gil's murder to the delivery men who are not allowed to join a union. I am happy for you to have all of these interviews and for you to review them and see for yourself. I can even put you in touch with the people themselves , so if you wish you can visit Colombia and talk to them face to face, I think you would find them decent ordinary folk.

And so onto India, there are many stories here but let us stay with the stories about the Company opening plants (in a water intensive industry) in water sensitive areas with with little or no regard for the communities who find their water compromised and depleted. Once again you say independent judicial enquiries have found claims unfounded. Once again I ask what independent judicial enquiries?

Firstly there are four plants where Cokes operations have put the local community water in danger, in Kerala, near Jaipur and two in Uttra Pradesh. Two of these four plants have been shut down after protests and legal challenges. Coke were forced to close these plants.

The two remaining plants are near Jaipur and near Varanasi, neither plants have had judicial enquiries that found any claims of water depletion unfounded. So I am at a loss as to what judicial enquiries you refer to.

Happily for you Richard I have spent time in India too, and am happy for you to have access to all the interviews I have conducted with local people from all four of the plants, so you can hear for yourself what the allegations are.

Richard, you fail to mention the allegations that are raised against the company in Turkey regarding union busting or in El Salvador regarding Coke's sugar being produced with the help of child labour. Neither do you refer to the allegations of union busting in Ireland or the court findings against the company in Mexico, where they were found to be in breech of anti-monopoly law and intimidated some of the poorest shop owners.

So I am happy to send you a copy of my book which details some of these things BUT more importantly I offer to make my research and interviews on all of these issues available for you to come and peruse , so you might be able to make a more balanced comment on your partnership with the company. I do not understand how you can make comments that Coke have a "relatively good track record in learning and making good on the things they get things wrong" without considering these points.

Yours, Mark Thomas

Additional response:

Dear Richard, just seen another reply you have made to an enquiry about Smoothie and Coke, you quote the ILO report made in 2008 - referring to 'direct' employees. You say "everything suggests that conditions of work and rights applicable to direct employees [in Columbia (sic)] are duly respected." The key here is that over 15 years the ratio of direct employment to casual labour has been reversed, from 80% of the workforce that was 'direct' labour and 20% that was casualised, to the present day where 20% of the work force is direct labour and 80% is casualised. Casual labour have no rights to join a trade union. None whatsoever, I met and talked to plenty of people who testified that this is the case.

So your quote is selective and deceptive that is being used to promote a vision of the company that is simply not true. once again I am happy for you to come and see the interviews and bring your own translator if you wish to go through what these men and women say about working for the company.

Looking forward to hearing from you. Mark Thomas

Thursday 23 April 2009

Yesterday's Queens Market Protest

Yesterday evening, supporters of 'Friends of Queens Market' held a picket of Newham Council's Development Control Committee, who were finally making a decision on planning permission on the destruction of the market in Upton Park by the developers St Modwens.

By the way, St Modwens are so in touch with the local community that they couldn't even get the right sodding post code for the market on a celebratory press release.

Unsurprising, the councillors voted according to the wishes of Mayor Sir Robin Wales (he who must be obeyed), with only the Green Street West Respect councillor Abdul Sheikh voting against.

Now the proposal goes to Boris Johnson, whilst there remains a possibility of a judicial review of the council's failure to conduct a proper Equalities Impact Assessment (Friends of Queens Market are working with the legal team at Friends of the Earth on this).


Wednesday 22 April 2009

A Case of Déjà Vu

I came across this Independent article from seven years ago and had a déjà vu moment - this feels like it could have been written a month ago, - compare Assistant Commissioner Michael Todd's promise to be "a bit in-your-face" with Commander Simon O'Brien's pledge to be "up to it and up for it":

Mayfair prepares to bear the brunt of annual anti-globalisation clashes
By Jason Bennetto and Steve Boggan

, 1 May 2002

Rubble-filled skips, scaffold poles and café tables were being cleared from the streets of one of London's most affluent districts last night as police prepared for the annual May Day clashes.

Scotland Yard has drafted in about 5,000 officers to police a range of anti-capitalist demonstrations throughout the capital. Police intelligence has identified three likely flashpoints later today, which include a trade union organised march to Trafalgar Square and protests in the Mayfair area and busy Oxford Street.

Several businesses, including fur shops, jewellers, and luxury car show-rooms, boarded up their windows in central London yesterday amid fears that the violence seen at previous May Day anti-capitalist demonstrations would be repeated today.

Throughout the night, teams of council workers have been removing objects that could be used as missiles – such as rubble and bricks from building work, tables and chairs – and securing scaffolding.

Assistant Commissioner Michael Todd, the Metropolitan Police officer in charge of overseeing the policing of the day's protests, warned yesterday that there was new intelligence suggesting violent demonstrators may attempt to hijack a traditional trade union march in which up to 10,000 people are expected to take part.

Mr Todd said he was surprised that the trade union and labour movement organisers, who include the TUC, had allowed an anti-capitalist umbrella group, Globalise Resistance, to join the march from Clerkenwell Green to Trafalgar Square this afternoon.

"There are concerns that some people may try to subvert the demonstration," he said. "We have identified some known troublemakers and think they may try and get involved in some form of violence."

Mr Todd said his officers would be "interventionist" and if necessary "a bit in-your-face". "We will be tolerant of people's right to protest, but we will not put up with criminality."

He also warned that there were suggestions that organisers have asked demonstrators to make "individual protests" in Mayfair, which he said smacked of guerrilla tactics.

One May Day website says the central London district is "one of the most opulent and cloistered areas in the capital, full of luxury pads, exclusive shops, fancy hotels and national embassies". Teenagers are being urged to "bunk off" school and join the event, which the site says will happen "everywhere at once" to stay ahead of the police.

Scotland Yard are keen to ensure that demonstrators do not run riot as they did in the 2000 May Day protests in Parliament Square and Whitehall when a number of statues, including that of Winston Churchill, were defaced and a branch of McDonald's restaurant was wrecked.

Today's protests start with a mass cycle ride at 7.30am into the centre of London, which is expected to bring rush-hour traffic to a standstill. Later in the day, there will be demonstrations outside the American embassy in Grosvenor Square and a fur shop.

Organisers have advised protesters via the internet and posters to avoid forming large groups for fear of a repeat of last year when police corralled them into a small area of Oxford Circus and arrested 65 people.

As well as Mayfair, Oxford Street is once again expected to be a focal point for protesters, with plans for a mass football match.

Westminster City Council has written to residents and shopkeepers in the area warning them to take precautions. The authority estimates that the loss to business and likely damage to property is likely to cost between £10m and £20m.

But Guy Taylor, a campaigner for Globalise Resistance, said he was confident that the event the organisation is associated with this year – the TUC march – will pass without incident. "We are very well organised and stewarded and everyone is looking forward to a peaceful and successful march and rally," he said.

Privately, however, the organisers are concerned about the potential for problems once the official rally disperses at about 5pm, when some protesters are expected to make their way to the more unorthodox anarchist events in and around Mayfair.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

What planet is Jenny Jones on?

George Monbiot has written an interesting article in the Guardian, arguing that the current furore over police tactics during the G20 protests could soon pass, warning that we shouldn't "expect this momentary ­backlash to change anything. The police appear impervious to criticism." He offers the following analysis that is spot on:

The police behave like this, despite the ­opprobium of left and right, because they know they will get away with it. They know the government won't rein them in; that the Independent Police Complaints Commission appears to eat out of their hands; that the sternest sanction an officer can expect for beating or killing a passerby is some extended gardening leave. They know that in a few days' time the rightwing press will revert to publishing stories about the anarchist baby-eaters seeking to turn Britain into a bloodbath.
That is certainly the experience of those who have supported the families of those who have died in police custody over the years. But in response, the Green Party's member on the Metropolitan Police Authority, Jenny Jones, has written a letter (circulated by the Green Party press office) stating:
I disagree with Monbiot's statement that this momentary backlash against the police won't change anything and that the police are impervious to criticism. There is no going back from the public shock of seeing our trusted police behaving like thugs on video footage, again and again. We also have a Commissioner who puts professionalism at the top of his wishlist for the Met and he must have been distressed to see the appallingly brutal policing of the Climate Camp, a crowd of peaceful, picknicking people, often with their children. He will also be aware of the public swing from acceptance to doubt about methods to contain legal protests.
Splutting, I had to re-read this a couple of times to check that I hadn't made a mistake. "We also have a Commissioner who puts professionalism at the top of his wishlist for the Met and he must have been distressed to see the appallingly brutal policing of the Climate Camp." What the...! Distressed?

Jenny Jones seems to have forgotten that it was the Met Commanders Bob Broadhurst And Simon O'Brien who were warning of an "unprecedented threat" from protesters. And that it was the police who issued advice to staff working in the City to dress down for their own safety. And that the Metropolitan police was deliberately talking up the dangers and fed stories to the Evening Standard stoking up the threat of violent anarchists from across Europe who would be descending on London.

Does Jenny Jones think the Metropolitan Police Commissioner simply failed to consider, even for a minute, that this might demonstrate a lack of 'professionalism' that could impact on the way the protests were policed? Or that he didn't know what his Commanders were up to? Or could it perhaps be that Stephenson wasn't that 'distressed' about the way the threat was ratcheted up because it was sanctioned from the top?

Across senior levels of the police, from the Met to ACPO, there is a concerted attempt to portray any violence on 1st April as the actions of a few officers. The police are also spinning the line that unlike in other countries, at least they didn't use tear gas or water cannon (which they undoubtedly possess and were considered for use at the G8 summit in 2005). But even if the likes of Jenny Jones are prepared to buy these arguments, no-one will who was at Climate Camp and saw a carefully planned exercise in violent confrontation by the police.

Jones has form when it comes to giving Met Commissioners the benefit of the doubt. In an e-mail exchange I had in November 2007, on calls for Sir Ian Blair to resign over the death of Jean Charles de Menezes (that were supported by her Green Party London Assembly colleague Darren Johnson), Jones said:
I am fair minded, and he [Ian Blair] does have a good record on equalities and on Neighbourhood policing. Under him the Met is doing pretty well, except for the dreadful Stockwell killing of an innocent man. The recent court case made it clear that the huge blunder could not be laid at any one person’s door, and did not criticise the Commissioner.

He is widely accepted as the most accountable senior police officer ever. He is cross examined in public every month by the Metropolitan Police Authority and once a year by the full Assembly. He is used to facing criticism and rudeness from many politicians, and mostly does well at keeping his temper.
Unfortunately I never did get to the bottom of what relevance any of this had to Blair's conduct in the Menezes case. And to this day, I still have no idea what really guides the thinking of the Green Party's home affairs spokesperson.

Monday 20 April 2009

Time For Our Own G20 Review?

Once upon a time, when the establishment really wanted to kick something into the long grass, it set up a Royal Commission. It has been over a decade since such a formidable opportunity for delay has been set up and the government has become just as cautious about the public inquiry, realising that for every well-respected member of the ruling class, every senior civil servant or compliant former judge like Lord Hutton, there is always the risk that, like Sir William MacPherson’s investigation into the death of Stephen Lawrence, an inquiry chair might actually decide to take their role seriously.

Instead, what New Labour has really learned to love is the review, an exercise that has become a spin doctor’s presentational mainstay, ideal for pushing controversial issues off the front pages of the newspapers. It gives the impression of accountability and careful consideration of the issues in a way that is easy to control and invariably its conclusions can be decided from the start. It is little wonder then that a generation of politicised senior police officers, who have honed their presentational skills from their close contacts with government, have learnt to love the review too.

The Met’s last serious public relations disaster was the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, the young Brazilian who was shot and killed at Stockwell station in 2005. Details about what really happened to Jean emerged slowly over the course of July and August 2005, as a result of a concerted family campaign and the brave decision by an employee of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, Lana Vandenberghe, to reveal the truth about the misinformation that had coloured public opinion. The aftermath of the G20 protests and the death of Ian Tomlinson on 1 April seemed at first to have the same depressing predictability about the way the police would respond. Initially they portrayed Tomlinson’s death as an unfortunate part of an exemplary operation, then tried to place the blame on someone else (in this case, ‘anarchist’ protesters) through misleading press briefings, intended to frame the media’s narrative about both police tactics and the death of a bystander for the months ahead. And just as the Menezes family realised in 2005, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, once it finally stirs into action, apparently uses as much energy in defending its dwindling reputation as it does on investigating the actions of the police.

But the G20 protests have seen a new phenomenon that has been almost impossible for the police to control in the way they usually expect to: the almost daily release of new video evidence of violent police assaults on protestors, collected by demonstrators themselves. For once, the police’s manipulative and unhealthy relationship with the British media, fueled by unattributed briefings by ‘police sources’ to the press, has been fundamentally undermined, and not by the actions of bodies charged with police accountability, but by individual citizens themselves.

So, having lost control of the message, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson made an announcement on 15 April that his masters in the Home Office would be proud of: a ‘review’ of the tactics used by London’s police during the protests against the G20 summit, conducted by Denis O’Connor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

Unfortunately it is far from being the ‘independent inquiry’ that it has been portrayed as by Stephenson. O’Connor is an old friend, a former Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and can therefore hardly be described as impartial. The ‘review’ immediately looks like a classic establishment fix, designed to divert unwelcome attention on the conduct of the police during the protests. As a result, campaigners should be extremely cautious about believing the offer to submit their own evidence to O’Connor’s ‘review’ is genuine.

Perhaps what we need instead is our own review, one that pulls together the testimony and evidence that different organisations involved in the protests have started to collect and publish (see, for example, the report by the Climate Camp Legal Team).

The east-London based Newham Monitoring Project (NMP), which I’ve been an activist with for 18 years and that has monitored and provided support for those on the receiving end of police misconduct since 1980, is urging that this kind of collaboration and solidarity between groups. Working together to create a ‘G20 Alternative Review’ can ensure that the expected whitewash by Denis O’Connor does not become the accepted narrative of the demonstrations against the G20 summit.

NMP can be contacted at Harold Road Community Centre, 170 Harold Road, Upton Park, London E13 0SE. Tel: 020 8470 9541. E-mail:


The president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Ken Jones, has been busy defending police tactics as 'proportionate'. He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, "But on the question of a review, yes, ACPO has has welcomed that, but I think we need to do it with some objectivity and have a broader perspective than I have seen in the last few days. We need to make sure that we don't condemn the many for a problem created by the few."

Who might this message be directed to? Perhaps the man responsible for the supposedly independent review and Jones' colleague, the former Vice-President of ACPO, Dennis O'Connor?

Sunday 19 April 2009

Video Report on Climate Camp

At 4 minutes 50 seconds, a police officer is clearly seen smacking a protestor across the head with his shield. At 7 minutes 49 seconds, an officer punches a protestor in the face.

I loved this comment on the film on YouTube: "to be fair to the police it takes guts to stand up to someone in a duffle coat when you only have a baton, riot shield and crash helmet to protect you."

Friday 17 April 2009

Get Ready For May Day!

Click to enlarge. A PDF version can be downloaded from here

From those wags at Private Eye...

Welcome to the CIA's Room 101

'You asked me once,' said O'Brien, 'what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.'

The door opened again. A guard came in, carrying something made of wire, a box or basket of some kind. He set it down on the further table. Because of the position in which O'Brien was standing. Winston could not see what the thing was.

'The worst thing in the world,' said O'Brien, 'varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. There are cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal.'

He had moved a little to one side, so that Winston had a better view of the thing on the table. It was an oblong wire cage with a handle on top for carrying it by. Fixed to the front of it was something that looked like a fencing mask, with the concave side outwards. Although it was three or four metres away from him, he could see that the cage was divided lengthways into two compartments, and that there was some kind of creature in each. They were rats.

'In your case,' said O'Brien, 'the worst thing in the world happens to be rats.'
"Nineteen Eighty Four", George Orwell, Part 3, Chapter 5
You would like to place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us that he appears to have a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him. You would, however, place a harmless insect in the box. You have orally informed that you would in fact place a harmless insect such as a caterpillar in the box with him. [remainder of paragraph withheld]
Extract from a memo signed on 1 August 2002 by the former head of the US Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), Jay Bybee, giving the CIA authorization to use torture techniques such as slamming an alleged "high-value" detainee's head against a wall, placing insects inside a “confinement box” to induce fear, and forcing him to remain awake for 11 consecutive days.
"We have to look back before we can move forward as a nation. When crimes have been committed, the American legal system demands accountability. President Obama's assertion that there should not be prosecutions of government officials who may have committed crimes before a thorough investigation has been carried out is simply untenable. Enforcing the nation's laws should not be a political decision. These memos provide yet more incontrovertible evidence that Bush administration officials at the highest level of government authorized and gave legal blessings to acts of torture that violate domestic and international law,"
Anthony Romero, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union press release

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Dog Bites Man - A Real Story For Once

Thursday 9 April 2009

IPCC and police accused by Guardian

In a report today, in the Guardian accuses the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Metropolitan police of attempting to manipulate the story of Ian Tomlinson's death at the G20 protests and to 'manage' Mr Tomlinson's family. The following is particularly interesting:

On Sunday, the pictures obtained by the Guardian showing Mr Tomlinson on the ground in front of police were published.

Around 10.30 am the Tomlinson family attended the scene of the death, where they spoke to the Guardian about allegations he had been assaulted by police. They said they were glad the pictures had come out and wanted more answers. They were concerned about allegations that Tomlinson had been assaulted. They gave the Guardian their names, telephone numbers and address and then attended a church memorial service.

It was then, during the service, that the family's police liaison officer told the Guardian he was extremely unhappy the paper had spoken to them. He told the Guardian's reporter not to contact the family "for 48 hours".

Meanwhile official guidance from the IPCC to another Guardian journalist accused the paper of doorstepping the family at a time of grief. The IPCC guided that the family had been deeply distressed by the newspaper's approach. On the same day the IPCC told journalists from rival publications there was "nothing in the story" that Mr Tomlinson had been assaulted by an officer.
So, to summarise: inappropriate behaviour by the police's family liaison officer, along with interference and manipulative briefings by the IPCC. Thank goodness the family now have their own legal advice.

Most of this background information never gets reported, but it helps to show why justice following a death involving the police is so rare.

Elsewhere in the same newspaper are comments by eye-witness Alan Edwards, who helped Mr Tomlinson aftter he was assaulted. He mentions the following contact with the IPCC:
Edwards will make a full statement to the Independent Police Complaints Commission today. But he has already given a preliminary description to the police watchdog of what happened. "When I spoke to the lady at the IPCC she asked what happened when [Tomlinson] fell over. I said: 'He didn't fall, he was pushed.'"
Quite. No prior assumptions by the IPCC's investigators then...

Wednesday 8 April 2009

The Habitual Lies of the Police

"He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him."
Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Peter Carr, Paris, 19 August 1785

Lies crafted and repeated by the Metropolitan Police and its counterparts around the country, fed through unattributed ‘police sources’ to the press, are so commonplace that it’s hardly surprising public scepticism has become almost instinctual. The police lied about the deaths in their custody of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell station, of Roger Sylvester in Tottenham and of Ibrahima Sey in Ilford. They lied about Christopher Alder, who lay dying on the floor of a police station in Hull whilst officers mocked and racially abused him and they lied about Shiji Lapite, who they strangled and killed in Stoke Newington.

After over a decade as secretary of the United Families & Friends Campaign, the coalition of bereaved relatives of those who have died in custody, it’s hard for me to think of a single controversial death where the police haven’t lied repeatedly, particularly in the immediate aftermath when the press narrative is set for months to come.

But it’s not just the lies that breed scepticism and suspicion, it’s the deliberate smears that suggested that Jean Charles was acting suspiciously, that Roger was high on cocaine, that Shiji was a drug dealer, that Ibrahima was mad and had ‘superhuman strength.’ Each tried to blame the victim for causing their death and all were calculated attempts to pervert the course of justice, to block the possibility that police officers might be held to account for their decisions and actions. And although routine following a custody death, the smears are commonplace whenever there is controversy.

Back in 2006, when the police blundered into the home of two innocent brothers on the next street from mine in Forest Gate in a botched ‘anti-terror’ raid, shooting and wounding one man and then restricting the movement of a whole community for ten days, police press officers were soon busy feeding smears to the press. Lurid stories about suicide bomb vests and a ‘chemical bomb factory’ were scoffed at by my neighbours as children played football on the streets around the ‘crime scene’, but plenty of tabloid readers believed these lies, just as many still think that Jean Charles jumped the ticket barrier at Stockwell. When all else failed, the Met circulated rumours that a computer taken from the home of the two brothers contained child pornography – rumours angrily refuted by their lawyers who demanded evidence that was never provided.

The police’s management of news in the aftermath of the G20 protests followed the same pattern once it became clear there had been a fatality, although this time it was protesters rather than the dead man who were slandered (one wonders what the message would have been if a protester had died – presumably ‘violent anarchist’ with ‘superhuman strength’). The intent, however, was the same as ever – to undermine prospects of accountability of the police.

Whilst we might hope for justice for Ian Tomlinson’s family, the experiences of so many other families suggest the chances are very slim, but not as slim as an end to the police’s manipulative and unhealthy relationship with the British media. Anyone reading the bland, wilfully feeble ‘scrutiny’ by the Metropolitan Police Authority knows that the state has no stomach for reining in police fabrication of the truth.

Which leaves us with a sobering thought – that they almost got away with it, that there may have been no investigation, not even an inquest, but for the chance capture of video evidence. With little sign that the police intend on changing their heavy-handed tactics during the policing of protests, the work of the splendidly brave (and repeatedly harassed) activists from FITwatch may now need extending to our own team of camera operators, not simply to resist and oppose the surveillance on protesters but ready to record evidence of police brutality.

NOTE: The submission I wrote for Newham Monitoring Project in 2006 on selective leaks by the police to the press following the Forest Gate raids is available at the Statewatch website.

Livingstone's hypocrisy - part 76

Thanks to Piara for pointing out Livingstone's interview on Channel 4 News. "I always worry," said Livingstone, "that these elite groups [of police] end up with a much more paramilitary approach to policing, a much more proactive 'go in and sort it out', than the traditional bobby that's on the beat."

This from the man who praised the 'elite' paramilitary police officers involved in the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Message of support to Ian Tomlinson's family

Members of Jean Charles de Menezes's family in London have issued the following message of support to the family of Ian Tomlinson, who died at last week's G20 protest. It has passed on by Mr Tomlinson's solicitors. It reads:

The family of Jean Charles de Menezes and their Campaign wish to express their deep condolences to the family of Ian Tomlinson over his tragic death. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.

We have been following the emerging evidence relating to the police assault on Ian with grave sadness as we remember the early accounts of how Jean Charles’ death was reported. The Tomlinson family has a right to find out the truth behind what led to Ian’s death. We know from experience that their pain at this time is only being exacerbated by the misinformation and half truths that have been circulating.

We are concerned that the police appear to have misled the public about vital information regarding the circumstances of Ian’s death and find it deeply worrying that Ian’s death is not being independently investigated but rather; the City of London police force is investigating the Metropolitan police. How can an investigation claim to be independent if police officers are investigating themselves?

The notion that the Met has fully learned the lessons of the Menezes tragedy must be called into question in the way in which they have handled the aftermath of Ian Tomlinson’s death. The media also must shoulder some criticism for its continued unquestioning acceptance of police accounts of contentious deaths.

Justice4Jean continues to campaign to ensure that no family has to go through what the Menezes family endured. We have long called for an independent inquiry into the over arching issues raised by the shooting including the ability of the IPCC to deliver justice and how the police are able to repeatedly mislead the public over contentious deaths. The need for such an inquiry is clearly needed now more than ever and we hope the Tomlinson family get the truth and justice they deserve.

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Video of police assault on Ian Tomlinson

Reactions to G20 Summit

G20 outcome – 'a bitter pill for the world’s poor' says banned World Development Movement more>>

G20 fails to deliver real change - Jubilee Debt Campaign response more>>

G20 slammed for ‘shortsighted’ deal - War on Want response more>>

"Tacking climate change on to the end of the communique as an after thought does not demonstrate anything like the seriousness we needed to see." - Greenpeace response more>>

G20 summit - planet short-changed again as world leaders fail to take bold action on climate - Friends of the Earth response more>>


Real progress at summit, says TUC more>>

Is there nothing that TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber won't do to avoid criticising Gordon Brown?

Friday 3 April 2009

Police Thug Aggression


Thursday 2 April 2009

Police run amok in the City

One day on, I’m still angry about the conduct of the police in the Square Mile and I’m reminded of a quote by George Orwell, who wrote “whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.” The police revelled in their apparent invincibility on the streets during yesterday’s protests and at times were out of control. It certainly looked that way to many protesters.

I cycled up to Liverpool Street and headed over to take a look at events at the Bank of England, having planned to attend the Climate Camp protest on Bishopsgate. I’m glad I managed to get away just before the imposition of the police tactic of the ‘kettle’, which amounts to imprisonment in a contained space for hours on end, without food or water or any of the formalities of arrest. As soon as people tried to leave and were refused, it was almost inevitable that tensions would rise, which from what I saw was what a number of the riot cops were itching for. Reports in today’s rightwing newspapers have praised the police, unsurprisingly, but even the liberal press have trotted out nonsense like the laughable ‘protest tourism’ of Deborah Orr in the Independent and the claim, by the idiotic Sandra Laville in the Guardian, that the Met are “said to be among the best public order officers in the world” – by whom? And the ‘best’ at what, shutting down legitimate protest?

Over at the amazing Climate Camp, it felt relatively calm for most of the afternoon, despite the surly aggression of the police officers in the boiler suits who clearly felt they had drawn the short straw as they stood at either end of the occupied road outside the European Climate Exchange. Sadly the calm didn’t last: from around 7pm, riot police violently attacked the camp, injuring many who had been engaged in peaceful protest and once again refusing to allow anyone to leave the area. As the police advanced, Climate Campers held up their hands and chanted “peace not violence”, but it didn’t do any good – the police waded in with their batons. See the following footage of the violence of the police:

I hope that police tactics will come under greater scrutiny over the coming weeks, not least because of the shocking news of the death of a protester caught by in the ‘kettle’ near the Bank of England. This has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, for what little that is worth, whilst the police have already spread smear stories saying they were attacked when providing assistance to the injured man, which have been contradicted by eye-witnesses. As anyone who recalls the aftermath of any death involving police contact will know, lying seems to be the standard police procedure in these circumstances. But if the police get away yet again with their decision to treat all and any protester as violent and dangerous, there are a number of major potential consequences for any demonstration that doesn’t involve a stroll from Embankment to Hyde Park along a prescribed route.

Firstly, the prospect of creating anything like the carnival atmosphere of peaceful opposition and freedom of expression that existed at Climate Camp, or briefly outside the Bank of England, will have been taken away, perhaps forever. As a result, future protests are likely to be less collective and coordinated, more autonomous, aiming to ensure they are more difficult to cordon off and control. That’s fine for the committed activists but uncertainty about protest plans and the fear of violence from the police – the only genuine fear felt by most people yesterday – risks making people think twice about exercising their right to protest in any manner other than one ‘approved’ by the state.

Moreover, if non-violence protest is routinely met with beatings, intimidation and harassment, then what point is there in chanting “peace not violence” when no-one cares and no-one is listening? What incentive is there, if fact, not to forcefully defend yourself? At the moment, I’m not so sure that is such a bad idea, even though I have never been comfortable with violence. I certainly saw the breaking of a few windows at a Royal Bank of Scotland branch yesterday as staged for the scrum of photographers. But if hundreds of police officers square up with their shields and their batons hoping to batter a few scruffy hippies and instead get a bloody good kicking, isn’t that bully’s justice? Why should those prepared to exercise their right to self-defence deserve condemnation rather than praise? To misquote a statement that is often also attributed to Orwell, could it be that “people can protest peaceably in their streets only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf”?

Our police ‘service’ should remember that whoever is winning at the moment can change. There’s nothing inevitable about invincibility and if you assume that every protester is violent and dangerous, one day you may well turn up to repress another protest and find out your prejudices have come true.

If that happens, yesterday’s events in the City will start to look like... well, a peaceful picnic on Bishopsgate...

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Climate Campers - Hi di hi!

Everyone has been having an inspiring day in the sun - and the suits have all look worried...

Posted by ShoZu

Outside Bank of England

Amazing - everyone made it on time!

Posted by ShoZu

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