In spite of the hysteria generated over the killings of black Americans, as pointed out here recently the police kill more whites than blacks, far more. Unjustified police killings in the UK are far, far less frequent, not just because of its far smaller population but because we are not obsessed with guns. Here as in the US, the deaths of blacks generate far more outrage than those of whites, but there was one notable exception, and the parallels with the death of George Floyd (pictured) are striking.
On April 1, 2009, there were massive protests in the capital against the G-20 summit, and the police were out in force. Ian Tomlinson was not involved in those protests; he was a man of 47 who looked ten years older. A member of the underclass, he had been married twice, but had been separated from his second wife for over a decade. He struggled with alcoholism and was living at the Lindsey Hotel, in reality a homeless shelter that closed the following year.
Ian Tomlinson did some casual work distributing newspapers, and at the time of the assault, he was trying to get home but found the route blocked. As he walked, hands in pockets, with his back to a line of police officers clad in riot gear, one of them stepped forward and assaulted him. Here is the video.
As the reader will see, unlike the George Floyd case, the thug in uniform had not the slightest pretext for committing this assault. On a younger man, or a fit man of the same age, that assault would have had no consequences for the victim, and in the absence of citizen phone footage, it would have had no consequences for the assailant either. Ian Tomlinson was helped up, but a minute or so later he was back on the ground, this time without external assistance. He was dead within minutes.
Then the police did what they always do, they lied, and when they couldn’t lie, they obfuscated. In this case, they brought in their pet pathologist to perform the post-mortem/autopsy, who decided (ie was told to find) the victim died from a heart attack. Contrast this with the initial pronouncement from prosecutor Michael Freeman in the George Floyd case who said there was no guarantee criminal charges would follow. They certainly wouldn’t have if the incident hadn’t been filmed, in spite of a crowd of witnesses.
In the Ian Tomlinson case, his family persisted, and his assailant was eventually brought to book after an inquest ruled the death an unlawful killing. Simon Harwood had a chequered career as a police officer, to put it mildly. He had served with the Metropolitan Police until 2001 when he was allowed to retire on health grounds while awaiting a disciplinary hearing for an off-duty incident. His health soon recovered however, and he was allowed to join Surrey Police, who are just as corrupt as the Met. Then he rejoined the Met, apparently with no qualms about his record, and he would end up policing in riot gear.
Because of the delay over the inquest and the voluminous internal reports, it took three years to bring Harwood to trial. He was tried only for manslaughter, and the jury properly returned a verdict of not guilty, but clearly he was morally responsible for Ian Tomlinson’s death. He was sacked by the Metropolitan Police in September 2012, and of course he had been suspended on full pay all that time.
The acknowledged killer of George Floyd will not have such an easy ride; he has already been sacked, and his wife is filing for divorce while he languishes behind bars until he can raise the half million dollar bond.
The death of Ian Tomlinson had a sequel which in other circumstances would be amusing. The anti-G-20 protests continued the following day, by which time everybody knew what happened, and the protesters were rightly angry. This led to a confrontation between a diminutive Nicola Fisher and another thug in uniform. In spite of his two assaults on her being caught on camera, he was acquitted by a magistrate the following year. This might have been due to Miss Fisher selling her story to the publicist Max Clifford then failing to turn up for the trial. Nicola Fisher is white; her assailant who goes by the name Delroy Smellie, is black. If the penny hasn’t dropped yet, here it is in black and white: this hysteria about police violence is not about race, it is about power. Like politicians and many others in our society, police officers are given special powers of necessity. When they abuse those powers, they must be held to account, whatever colour they are, and whoever they are.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.