G20 Protests: Did Police 'Assault' Bystander Ian Tomlinson Before He Died?

Dave Haste
By Dave Haste Last edited 109 months ago
G20 Protests: Did Police 'Assault' Bystander Ian Tomlinson Before He Died?

Blood at roadside

Last week we witnessed some glaring discrepancies between certain newspaper reports on the G20 protests and the observations of many who were present at the demonstrations. While the Daily Mail was reporting the events with headlines claiming “… thousands of anti-capitalists ransack the City in G20 riot” (this headline has since been changed on the Daily Mail website), several of Londonist’s own eyewitnesses had noticed that the protests were, despite a handful of isolated incidents, mostly quite peaceful and good-natured - a fact acknowledged at the time by a Metropolitan Police spokesman.

Similarly, many newspapers initially reported that the police paramedics who were attempting to revive Ian Tomlinson (the man who collapsed and died during the protests) were “pelted with bottles by a screaming mob”, despite the rapidly emerging eyewitness claims that such reports were a massive distortion of the facts.

And now additional claims have been made about the circumstances surrounding Ian Tomlinson’s death. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has received a number of witness statements claiming that Mr Tomlinson was ‘assaulted’ by riot police as he attempted to make his way home from work at a nearby newsagents. It is reported that he was ‘rushed from behind’ by police officers, resulting in him falling heavily to the ground and hitting his head on the pavement. He was then apparently helped to his feet by another bystander, but was seemingly disorientated and collapsed a few minutes later.

As more details of the exact circumstances surrounding Mr Tomlinson’s death emerge, there are increasing demands for a full investigation into the events. Protesters marched to Bethnal Green police station on Saturday to demand a public inquiry, and Liberal Democrat MP David Howarth has said: "Eventually there will have to be a full inquest with a jury. It is a possibility this death was at police hands."

With such wildly differing information being reported by the press and eyewitnesses, it is obviously difficult to know what to believe about what really happened at the G20 protests. However it’s looking less and less likely that Ian Tomlinson, a bystander who was not taking part in the protests, died from the ‘natural causes’ that were originally claimed by the police post mortem.

Picture taken from Kashlick’s Flickr photostream under the Creative Commons Attribution licence.

Last Updated 06 April 2009


The reporting of the G20 protests in the popular press has been nothing short of obscene.

Look for example at the Evening Standard website's reporting of this story. Originally they reported that the police medics helping this poor guy were "pelted with bricks", as you can see from the URL which will still take you to the report: "Police pelted with bricks as they help dying man during G20 protests".

However the report has been changed at least twice since it was posted. First it was changed to "pelted with bottles", and now it says "just a few plastic bottles were thrown by people further back in the crowd who did not realise what was happening", and if you search for this article on the site you'll notice the URL has been updated to the rather less hatefully fantastical "Ring of steel keeps demos away from world leaders".

How are paid journalists allowed to spread these lies without losing their jobs, and their reputations as newspeople?

Why is the Times website page that reports this story ("Man who died during G20 protest was walking home from work") headed with a video of the attacks on the RBS branch which happened 2 streets away and about 7 hours earlier? Is it because it was the only genuine protester-led violence the police managed to engineer during the whole protest.

Sick! A man died and it may have been at the hands of the violent barbaric thugs whose job it is to protect him! And all the media can do is distort the truth in the opposite direction.


Perhaps we need another series of protests outside newspaper headquarters.


Perhaps we need to jump to the conclusion that the police deliberately beat a man up because they're barbaric thugs? Clearly the reporting of the event was atrociously done, but let's not show the same lack of concern for facts in the other direction.


It's the assumption that "the police managed to engineer" an incident of protester led violence. Or the assumption that their strategy was to punish and deter protesters. Maybe it was, but it seems like people want headlines that don't read "Police pelted with bricks as they help dying man during G20 protests" but rather "Protesters attacked by violent barbaric thugs whose job it is to protect them".


I hope someone gets done for murder for this:


Preferably every copper that was there that day. They were generally as indiscriminate and violent as this. Low life scum, having a jolly day out beating up the public.


Max - this is an astonishing (and rather sickening) video. Thanks for posting the link to it.