British state-sponsored thugs in uniform: Licensed to kill

At around 7:20pm on Wednesday 1st April 2009, as he made his way home through the city of London, 47 year old Ian Tomlinson, father of 9, was brutally attacked by uniformed thugs of London’s notorious Territorial Support Group (TSG) Riot Police.

The attack was witnessed (among others) by photographer Anna Braithwaite, who said: “I can remember seeing Ian Tomlinson. He was rushed from behind by a riot officer with a helmet and shield two or three minutes before he collapsed.

Another witness recalls that as he was assaulted and thrown to the floor by these British state-sponsored thugs “…he hit the top front area of his head on the pavement. I noticed his fall particularly because it struck me as a horrifically forceful push by a policeman and an especially hard fall; it made me wince.”

Following his assault, he was seen stumbling before he collapsed and died on Cornhill Street, opposite St Michael’s Alley, at around 7.25pm.[1]

Police initially claimed that there was no contact between Tomlinson and the Police at all, but in the light of mounting and incontrovertible evidence bypassing their attempted censorship into the realm of public awareness, the grudging admission was made that “Mr Tomlinson appears to have become caught between police lines and protesters, with officers chasing back demonstrators during skirmishes.”  And further that “when paramedics tried to move Mr Tomlinson away for urgent treatment, bottles were thrown at them by protesters

Cold-blooded and unprovoked police murder

As is now widely known, the incident has been captured on video and is available on line.[2,3]   It can be clearly seen from this footage that Tomlinson posed no conceivable threat to the TSG assassins who took his life, but had his back to them and was walking away from them with his hands in his pockets, when he was arbitrarily struck in the legs with a baton and brutally shoved to the floor, without warning or provocation.  No attempt was made to aid him as he lay on the ground, apparently remonstrating with the officers.

As a result of this cold-blooded and unprovoked assault, Ian Tomlinson hit his head forcefully on the concrete paving-stones. He subsequently became confused, collapsed and died. On the alleged evidence of their own post-mortem, the police reported the cause of his death to be a “heart attack” – and therefore unrelated to any contact that Ian Tomlinson may have had with the TSG. Cursory investigation revealed, however, that he had no cardiac history, and was in good health, having recently run a half marathon; his family, not withstanding their grief, quite rightly and courageously demanded a second, independent post-mortem.[4]

Second and third post mortems reveal systematic police lies

We noted our suspicion prior to Tomlinson’s second post-mortem, that it seemed far more likely that he suffered a fatal brain injury due to head trauma (the mechanism of injury and history being suggestive of intra-cranial haemorrhage – probably subdural haematoma). The second, independent post mortem, meanwhile has damned the first police post-mortem and confirmed what was absolutely clear to any objective observer at the time: that Ian Tomlinson was indeed murdered by police thugs.

If geometrical axioms affected class interests, attempts would certainly be made to distort them.  What chance, then, does the objectivity of mere medical practice stand in the arena of class struggle? It is worth noting that the pathologist employed by the police, one Freddy Patel, has a distinguished, if not, unbiased record of service – to the Police, rather than the public – which has previously earned him a reprimand from the General Medical Council (GMC).  After the death of Roger Sylvester, a 30 year old black man, in police custody, it was this self same Dr F Patel who had attempted to discredit that victim of Police violence, by announcing to the press that he had been ‘a crack addict’[5,6,7] This allegation was not only irrelevant, but prejudicial to the inquiry, probably false and certainly in total breach of professional norms of good medical practice.[8]

In a second case police dropped a criminal investigation after Patel opined that the victim, an apparently mutilated female prostitute, had died of ‘natural causes’. A man who lived in the flat where the body was found went on to murder two other women and mutilate their bodies also. He was not disciplined over that case.”

One source apparently “expressed surprise [to the Telegraph] that Mr Tomlinson’s initial post mortem was referred to Dr Patel rather than the Forensic Pathology Services, a body of nine independent forensic pathologists, which usually deals with suspicious deaths in London and the home counties.” [6]

Clearly his services have proven useful to the police, and he has been retained and no doubt richly rewarded for thus prostituting himself.

It is worth noting also, that while the second post mortem found some mild coronary artery disease (in keeping with Tomlinson’s age, but not with his demise), it has found traumatic intra-abdominal haemorrhage to be the cause of death. (This finding is itself not entirely consistent with the surrounding facts of the case, and has yet to be adequately explained.) How many such Jesuitical slights of hand this Pathologist has committed in the past in ‘sensitive’ police cases, would itself form the basis of a most interesting and enlightening investigation, which we are sadly unlikely to see. Certainly the body of his professional practice must be subject to serious question and critical review.

Meanwhile, on April 24th, a photograph emerged “apparently showing the newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson with a head injury before his death during the G20 protests. The latest blurred image, broadcast on Sky News, showed what appeared to be large bruising on the right of Mr Tomlinson’s forehead, said Sky.

It was consistent with video footage that has already revealed how his head hit the ground after being pushed over by a police officer.

The 47-year-old was helped to his feet by passers-by and walked off, seemingly not seriously hurt. The photograph revealing the injury was taken three minutes later, as police…” isolated Tomlinson from a medical student and other protestors attempting to assist him.

Two separate autopsies have given conflicting causes of Mr Tomlinson’s death: heart attack and abdominal bleeding.

A third postmortem examination has been held at the request of lawyers for the police officer involved, but the results have not been revealed.”[9]  Are we paranoid, to persist in our belief that Ian Tomlinson died when a TSG ‘officer’ cracked his skull?

Media Coverage

We note that news of this state-sponsored murder only gradually leaked out, being confined, at first, to a few low-profile articles in the broad-sheet press.  Subsequent revelations regarding the brutal policing of the G20 demonstrations, as well as the crass and patently false ‘damage limitation’ exercise conducted by police propagandists have brought greater attention, but it has remained muted considering the nature and implications of the crime.  It is not hard to imagine the furore that would have ensued had a police officer suffered even a mild injury, let alone been killed – one need only cast one’s mind back to the recent assassinations of 2 soldiers and a policeman in the occupied six counties of Ireland to measure the contrast.

Once the foul deed had been exposed, the Police, complacent in the knowledge of media-bias in their favour, swung their clumsily-orchestrated campaign of dis-information, lies and slander into motion. This has  become an all too familiar pattern following the murders of Jean Charles De Menezes,[10]   Harry Stanley[11] and Diarmuid O’Neill,[12] not to mention the attempted   murder by police in Forest Gate [13] But the unusually public nature and widespread coverage of very usual Police behaviour has come as a shock to them, and been their undoing. No wonder the Met want to make photographing their actions a ‘crime’. Had it not been for the footage (ironically captured by a fund manager), this incident might have passed largely ‘un-noticed’.

It took some time for any police investigation to be instigated, and even longer for that investigation to be taken over by the ‘independent’ police complaints commission (the IPCC). When, on April 22nd, Channel 4 News announced its intention of showing ‘new’ footage of the moments leading up to the death of Mr Tomlinson, the IPCC’s prime concern proved once more to be an attempt to prevent the broadcast on the grounds that it “would potentially damage” its investigation.

“[The IPCC] tried to secure a court order when it emerged that the programme planned to broadcast a frame-by-frame analysis of the film, but a judge refused to grant the injunction.”[14]

Context of the attack

Police had been corralling demonstrators outside the Bank of England in what is essentially a form of (illegal) mass detention.[15]  Some had been thus imprisoned for hours, triggering counter demonstrations outside the cordons, demanding their release.

“At around 7.10pm, G20 protesters had gathered outside the police cordon to call for those contained inside – some for hours – to be let out. Officers with batons and shields attempted to clear them from the road.

“Around 7.20pm, five riot police, and a line of officers with dogs,  emerged from Royal Exchange  Square, a pedestrian side street.”[1]  It was at this juncture that they encountered and attacked Ian Tomlinson.

The brutal and arbitrarily manhandling of this middle aged man quite without warning, cause or provocation, despite his lack of involvement in G20 demonstrations is easily understood by anyone that has ever encountered the TSG.  Apart from being their usual modus operandi, it is quite clear that they wished to send a message to all those protesting against the reactionary policies of the City’s finance-capitalist elite and the havoc they are wreaking on the world, from destruction of jobs and livelihoods, to environmental devastation, and genocidal colonial wars of domination.

Who do the police and government serve?

The Police, Army and other “special bodies of armed men” form, together with parliament, the judiciary and prisons, etc., the modern capitalist state machine. This state is the means by which the capitalist class maintains its rule.

“Because the state arose from the need to hold class antagonisms in check, but because it arose, at the same time, in the midst of the conflict of these classes, it is, as a rule, the state of the most powerful, economically dominant class, which, through the medium of the state, becomes also the politically dominant class, and thus acquires new means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class.” The ancient and feudal states were organs for the exploitation of the slaves and serfs; likewise, “the modern representative state is an instrument of exploitation of wage-labor by capital…”

In a democratic republic, Engels continues, “wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely”, first, by means of the “direct corruption of officials” (America); secondly, by means of an “alliance between the government and the Stock Exchange.[16]

The assertion is made that the police (and ‘democratic government’) are here to protect and serve ‘the community’.  But Ian Tomlinson’s death illustrates all too clearly that there is a real alliance between the state forces and the stock exchange in the City of London, and that the City’s bankers, for all their economic problems, remain very much in political control.

The TSG and other ‘elite’ units (such as the firearms unit SO19) of the police are really paramilitary forces of the British Imperialist State; the domestic counterpart to their armies currently occupying Iraq and Afghanistan.  Far from getting one’s cat out of the tree or helping the elderly across roads, their real job is to put the boot in – to anyone deemed socially or politically dangerous by the capitalist class.  And not only the boot, for they are amassing an arsenal of increasingly sophisticated weaponry (chemical weapons, ‘tazer’ stun guns, pistols, high power rifles and semi-automatic machine guns, etc), and the legislative powers to employ them with impunity.  It is generally enough to throw in the word ‘suspected terrorist’ to justify any detention and any – even deadly – use of force. Nor do the ample provisions of the law hem in the actions of the state services, as can be seen from leaked evidence of British secret services routine use of Rendition of suspects for ‘contracted-out’ torture.[17]

So bankers – whose ‘job’ is to ensnare masses of workers and third world nations in debt, and thus enable ‘dead’ capital previously looted from the world’s workers to extract yet more surplus value, vampire-like, from the blood sweat and toil of the still living impoverished masses – when they loose a few hundred billion in their financial crisis, can use their connections with (really mastery over) the governmental and state apparatus to loot the treasury (and therefore the tax-paying public) of its reserves, in a vain attempt to prop up their moribund capitalist economic system.

But workers, when they protest against the injustice of what they increasingly perceive to be the rule of the financial elite, can expect to get their heads cracked.  Ian Tomlinson seems to have been ‘collateral damage’ (the intended action, but the wrong victim), as was Jean Charles de Menezes; but that does not change the nature of the shoot-to-kill policy employed by the Metropolitan Police, or its policy of beating protestors off the streets. Whatever happened to those much lauded ‘democratic rights’ of which we hear so much?

TSG record of brutality

Such heavy-handed actions and thuggish behaviour are not new to the storm-troops of the TSG. Rather, they form an integral part of their rich tradition of repression, as central to police culture as institutional racism, islamophobia, beating up striking miners and shooting the Irish.  The TSG are well known, in police circles and beyond to be ‘animals’, who itch to exercise the little power they are licensed to wield; who revel as they torture their victims; who have been trained to find some little relief from their petty nature and poverty of spirit by the ‘power’ they feel as they kick the living daylight out of their victims – who are generally the most disenfranchised members of society: poor, working-class, Irish, Muslim, Black or Asian and, of course, political opponents of their master’s political system, or simply unlucky enough to be mistaken for one of these categories of personae non gratae (as  was the case with Harry Stanley, Jean Charles de Menezes and now Ian Tomlinson).

These words might sound far-fetched to those who have not had the misfortune to encounter a TSG officer gleefully performing his duty, but a few examples may prove instructive:

“Police officers involved in a “serious, gratuitous and prolonged” attack on a British Muslim man that led the Metropolitan police to pay £60,000 in damages this week have been accused of dozens of previous assaults against black or Asian men.

“Babar Ahmad, 34, a terrorist suspect [ie a British working man who happens to be Muslim and of Asian origin], was punched, kicked, stamped on and strangled during his arrest by officers from one of the Met’s territorial support groups at his London home in December 2003.

“After six years of denials from Scotland Yard, lawyers acting for the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, were forced to admit in the high court that Ahmad had been the victim of sustained and gratuitous violence during his arrest and agreed to pay £60,000 in damages.

“But the Guardian can reveal that the Met was aware for years that the six officers involved were the subject of repeated complaints. According to documents submitted to the court, four of the officers who carried out the raid on Ahmad’s home had 60 allegations of assault against them – of which at least 37 were made by black or Asian men. One of the officers had 26 separate allegations of assault against him – 17 against black or Asian men.

“The Met has confirmed that since 1992 all six officers involved in the Ahmad assault had been subject to at least 77 complaints. When lawyers for Ahmad asked for details of these allegations it emerged that the police had “lost” several large mail sacks detailing at least 30 of the complaints.”[18]

Details of previous criminal thuggery committed by just four TSG officers came to light after the high court issued a disclosure order on 13 February 2009, demanding that the Metropolitan police release all “similar fact allegations” to Ahmed’s legal team:

·       March 2007: one officer is accused of bundling a man into the back of a police van where he was told to “get on his knees”. When he replied this was not Guantánamo Bay he claims the officer grabbed him round the neck and “discharged his CS gas while continuing to hold his throat”. He says he was then thrown from the van, leaving him with eye, neck and head injuries. According to the document no action was taken because the complaint was either “incapable of proof” or there was “no case to answer”.

·       November 2005: two of the officers were accused by a “black male” of attacking him in the back of a police van. The document states that he was subjected to “constant kicking to his head and stomach (approx 12 kicks). Head lifted off the floor by grabbing his right ear and lifting head.” The attack left the man with bruising and swelling to his face but the case was not pursued, the Met said, because of “non-cooperation” by the complainant.

·       October 2005: the document stated that two of the officers were involved in another assault on a “black male”. It read: “In van repeatedly assaulted – kicks to the face, stamps on his head whilst handcuffed.” The victim said afterwards he “felt like he might die” Vomiting and blood coming out of his ears, black swollen eye, lip busted, hands very swollen.

·       June 2003: two officers accused of beating a “black male” in the back of the TSG van. “The beating continued in the van and in a search room at the  station”.

July 2008: TSG officers ‘tazer’ [electro-cute] 17 year old black teen in Hyde park for participating in a water fight. [19]

Multiply this by the thousands of TSG officers deployed every day on our streets, and factor in the tiny proportion of victims who might think it worth complaining to the very police that have attacked them (and sought to criminalise them to justify their actions) in the first instance, and one begins to appreciate the massive repression meted out by the police in general and such units as the TSG in particular.

For the police, murder and repression represent business as usual

Quite clearly these draconian measures are fully sanctioned from the highest police and governmental levels and therefore the inevitable consequences are essentially considered to be business-as-usual by all branches of the state apparatus and the majority of media (as ever, acting as the faithful propaganda arm of the state in any matters of importance). Hence the low profile and ‘sympathetic’ coverage surrounding such abuses.

Up till now, we have come to expect, at best, a brief internal investigation, followed by full exoneration of all officers involved – and their speedy return to cracking heads (a.k.a. their ‘duty’.) How else can the British monopoly-capitalist class govern in these uncertain times?

Even the bourgeois journal the economist was forced to note, in this regard, that “Bad apples of the sort now starring on YouTube [a polite euphemism for the TSG thugs caught in the act of killing Ian Tomlinson] are seldom brought to justice: no policeman has ever been convicted of murder or manslaughter for a death following police contact [brutality], though there have been more than 400 such deaths in the past ten years alone. The IPCC is at best overworked and at worst does not deserve the “I” in its name. And 20 years on, no one has yet been held responsible for the Hillsborough disaster”. [20]

While it seems likely the guilty officer will face (no doubt muted) action, it is clear that heavy-handed policing of the G20 demonstrations was not simply the ‘baton-happy’ action of an individual officer.

The government’s prime concern, now as with the Bloody Sunday[21] or Hutton[22] enquiries is to ensure that the state remains unfettered in its task of upholding the real interests of the financial elite; the spirit, rather than the letter of the bourgeois legal code.  British Imperialism has a long history of brutal colonial and domestic repression, but with deepening capitalist crisis, the full force of its many ‘anti-terror’ statutes will inevitably be deployed with increasing frequency.  The victims of state repression are bound to be overwhelmingly ordinary British workers, resisting the consequences of the free-market fundamentalism of ‘our own’ imperialist ruling class of bankers and financiers.

The way forward

We note that “[t]he state has not existed from all eternity. There have been societies that did without it, that had no conception of the state and state power. At a certain stage of economic development, which was necessarily bound up with the cleavage of society into classes, the state became a necessity owing to this cleavage. We are now rapidly approaching a stage in the development of production at which the existence of these classes not only will have ceased to be a necessity, but will become a positive hindrance to production. They will fall as inevitably as they arose at an earlier stage. Along with them the state will inevitably fall. The society that will organize production on the basis of a free and equal association of the producers will put the whole machinery of state where it will then belong: into the Museum of Antiquities, by the side of the spinning wheel and the bronze axe.”[16]

Such increasingly desperate acts of violence will not safeguard this decadent and parasitic capitalist system of production for profit; this system of exploitation of man by man and nation by nation; of the many by the few.  Rather, they will hasten the day that working people take their destiny in their own hands, and realize that force, when wielded by the masses against this repressive apparatus can “play another role” (other than that of a diabolical power) “in history, a revolutionary role; that, in the words of Marx, it is the midwife of every old society which is pregnant with the new, that it is the instrument by the aid of which the social movement forces its way through and shatters the dead, fossilized political forms [16]

We send our condolences to the family and friends of Ian Tomlinson, yet another victim of the British capitalist state, and hope that the mounting anti-capitalist movement will hasten the day of British Imperialism’s demise, which can be the only fitting reparation for its crimes.


[3]. http://www.
[15]. Illegal, perhaps, until in Jan 2009 the Law lords quietly made precedent by accepting the Police use of mass detention without charge during May Day demonstrations in 2001;
[16]. V. I. Lenin.  The State and Revolution. Selected Works of, Eng. ed., Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1952, Vol II, Part I. [Quoting F Engels. Anti-Dühring];
[17]. Proletarian April 2009;
[20]. The camera is mightier than the sword. The Economist; April 16 2009;
[22]. http://www.

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