Sunday, 21 February 2010

Met Police's Press Bureau Releases (Some) Information on G20 Protests

Back in later October 2009, I submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Metropolitan Police, asking for “briefings, notes, e-mails or letters prepared by Metropolitan Police Press officers that were produced between 26th March and 8th April 2009 concerning the G20 protests.” It took over three months for the paperwork to arrive, but this week I received five lengthy documents (PDFs below) containing press logs, some e-mails and a couple of briefing papers.

Significant parts, especially around the death of Ian Tomlinson, have been redacted completely, most probably because of the complaint made by the Tomlinson family to the IPCC about the misinformation they had experienced. In November 2009. Ian Tomlinson's son Paul King said:

"We feel that there has been a cover up from the start. The first statement from the police was that they were trying to save Ian’s life while protesters were throwing missiles at them. Then the police liaison officer told us Ian died of “natural causes”. After the video came out, the City of London Police investigator told us that it may have been a protester in disguise who assaulted Ian. Now it has come to light that a senior officer in the Metropolitan Police has given the investigation misleading information. We are asking the IPCC for a full report on what looks like a cover-up."

Even the limited information released by the Met, however, helps to illustrate how the news agenda is set and subsequently how, but for video evidence from the public that contradicted these messages or 'lines', their agenda might have become the accepted version of events on 1st April. I haven't had a chance to read and annotate everything yet, but so far the documents show that:
  • On 31 March, after Chief Superintendent Ian Thomas was doorstepped by the BBC as he left a meeting with Climate Camp representatives at Portcullis House in Westminster, a statement was prepared so that, 'if asked', the Met would say discussions were intended to "put to rest some myths about our policing style" and that "MPS tactics will be entirely proportionate to what we are policing" 1

  • On 1st April, at 12.57pm, the press bureau had received its first complaint from a journalist who had been refused permission to pass through the cordon around demonstrators outside the Bank of England, despite having official accreditation.2 Around 15 minutes later Associated Press reporters had made similar complaints.3 After attacks on the Royal Bank of Scotland, a reporter was told on a 'not for publication' basis that "if people were being contained it was for their own safety, as it is believed missiles are being thrown." 4

  • At 6.35pm, almost six hours after containment had begun, the press bureau offered a statement on a controlled dispersal of kettled protesters, claiming that "portaloos and water were made available" to them5. It also said that containment had been necessary to prevent "widespread disruption through breaking into splinter groups", although notes at 8.16pm from a press briefing by Commander Simon O'Brien quote him saying that "the vast majority of the time [the protest] was lawful" and that a small group "was trying to 'ramp up' the protest and hijack it into violence". O'Brien also claimed that the police were "careful, pragmatic and proportionate in our approach and response and tried to take the temperature out of the crowd dynamic".6

  • At 10.15pm, a statement was offered saying that police had "found a man who had stopped breathing". It also contains the now notorious claim that "officers took the decision to move him as during this time a number of missiles, presumed to be bottles, were thrown at them".7 This comment was repeated the next day by papers like the Telegraph and perhaps surprisingly considering their later coverage, by the Guardian. The statement says that the IPCC was "in the process of being informed" - by 11.30pm this had been changed to "the IPCC has been informed".8

  • At 11.35, press officers had e-mailed a statement describing a "slow dispersal" at the "peaceful" Climate Camp in Bishopsgate.9

  • On 2nd April, the most important story for the Press Bureau was not the death the previous day but a raid on the RAMPart centre in east London, with embedded journalists from ITN and the Evening Standard in tow.10 Later that afternoon, there was a small protest for Ian Tomlinson at the Bank of England that was again kettled.11 At 4.47pm, a note says that "Ch Supt Ian Thomas (Silver) will speak to officers at the Bank of England and explain that the media should be left to get on with their jobs".12

  • On 5 April, the Observer rang an article saying that Ian Tomlinson has been assaulted prior to his death. By this stage, all comment had been passed onto the City of London Police and the IPCC to make. Apart from reproductions of news stories and IPCC press releases, most entries are redacted, although we know, for what it's worth, that the Commissioner saw the video of Ian Tomlinson's assault in the Press Bureau at 6.35pm on Tuesday 7 April.13
More analysis on the information when I have time. My earlier summary of a Freedom of Information release by the Home Offce on the G20 protests is here.


Part 1 [2Mb] Part 2a [890Kb] Part 2b [670Kb] Part 3a [525Kb]
Part 3b [640Kb] Part 4 [2Mb] Part 5 [1.1Mb]


1 Part 1 - Action 4
2 Part 2a - Action 26
3 Part 2a - Action 29
4 Part 2a - Action 34
5 Part 2a - Action 55
6 Part 2a - Action 66
7 Part 2b - Action 66
8 Part 2b - Action 74
9 Part 2b - Action 75
10 Part 2b - Action 23, 29, 30, 36 and 46
11 Part 2b - Action 54
12 Part 2b - Action 57
13 Part 3b - Action 7

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