Monday, 6 April 2009

City police interview Ian Tomlinson witness - assaulted at least twice - more pics emerge

pic by Kris Sime

[update 23:00 BST 7 April]

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/apr/07/video-g20-police-assault
Exclusive footage obtained by the Guardian shows Ian Tomlinson, who died during G20 protests in London, was attacked from behind by baton–wielding police officer

Dramatic footage obtained by the Guardian shows that the man who died at last week's G20 protests in London was attacked from behind and thrown to the ground by a baton–wielding police officer in riot gear.

Moments after the assault on Ian Tomlinson was captured on video, he suffered a heart attack and died.

The Guardian is preparing to hand a dossier of evidence to the police complaints watchdog. more

Protesters, and the writer of this blog was one of them, have been vindicated in very short order, although it will come as no consolation to the family of Ian Tomlinson.

The Guardian/Observer has been the only national paper to take seriously from the beginning the claims of police brutality by protesters.

More soon.

From earlier post

A witness has been questioned by City of London police. It follows the publication of three witnesses' statements by the Observer on Sunday. It is not clear whether the person questioned is from among witnesses cited by the newspaper.

The attack on Ian Tomlinson described by the witnesses took place in the Royal Exchange (the building opposite the Bank of England people often mistake for the Bank) and before he was attacked by police for a second time near St Michael's Alley. It is difficult for the police to refute the photographic evidence above from Kris Sime. No wonder there were reports of police demanding protesters destroyed images before being allowed to leave cordons.

For the Sun and Daily Mail readers out there, please take note of the 'helpful' posture of the riot police, possibly shortly after the first assault - don't exactly look like they are offering first aid do they? Also, note, no missiles. It was the protesters that called an ambulance and provided first aid.


So it seems he was attacked at least twice, making it difficult for the police to claim, as they still do, that he merely died of natural causes. But what brought on the heart attack and what of those head injuries?

Why has the Home Secretary not made a statement on this killing, after all it's not every day that someone dies on a protest in the UK.

Oh yes, I forgot, she has to wait for the initial assessment blah blah... The IPCC hasn't opened a formal investigation and is still at the stage of 'assessing' whether to do so.
"IPCC investigators are continuing to look at CCTV of the incident, examine statements and police records and speak to independent witnesses, including new witnesses that have come forward in the last 48 hours. We are also aware of the photos published showing Mr Tomlinson."
But, as far as I know, Jacqui Smith still hasn't even offered her condolences to the family let alone make a statement?

She's probably a bit distracted ordering more stuff from John Lewis to do up another room in one of her properties, naturally all at our expense.

Those witnesses statements from the Guardian:

A riot officer came up behind him and grabbed him. It wasn't just pushing him - he'd rushed him. He went to the floor and he did actually roll. That was quite noticeable. It was the force of the impact. It was all from behind. The officer hit him twice with a baton [when he was] on the floor. So it wasn't just that the officer had pushed him - it became an assault. And then the officer picked him up from the back, continued to walk or charge with him, and threw him. He was running and stumbling. He didn't turn and confront the officer or anything like that.
Anna Branthwaite, 36, freelance photographer, south London

I saw a man approaching the police line from my right. He was quite tall with a beer belly and short hair. I later recognised him from a picture. He was on his own. He walked up to the police across the Royal Exchange Building, towards the centre left of their line. He did not appear drunk - he was walking normally. I saw him suddenly fall back as though flung down with force. It was as though he had been spun. He fell and hit the top of his head hard. I was shocked. He lay on the ground for around 30 seconds without moving before a protester helped him up. The police did not help him at all.
Kezia Rolfe, 27, NGO researcher, Stoke Newington

Police got into scuffles with people. They were pushing the line forward. When he got hit, police were coming forwards. He got hit near the head with a baton. I saw him fall so I moved back. But I saw him on the floor and someone picking him up - that's when I took the picture. After that, I was taking pictures of police and the dog line, and a girl came and said 'This guy needs help'. He was further back down the road.
Amiri Howe, 24, actor/musician, west London

Visteon workers defy prison threat - and walk free

Visteon workers occupying their factory in Enfield were jubilant this morning after a judge in the high court threw out the charge of defying a court order against the convenor Kevin Nolan and his deputy.

It's not clear whether the judge's decision was part of an agreement to vacate the premises later this week - namely the Thursday vacation dates voted on, at the union's behest, last night in the occupation.

There still doesn't seem to be a concrete proposal from Ford or Visteon on the table with regards the workforces demands on fair severance pay and pension protection.

Why is Gaza Solidarity covering this struggle? Because we believe in uniting our disparate struggles to strenghthen each. And I just happen to be involved in building solidarity for both Gaza and this factory occupation which is relatively close to me in north London.

Gaza: a journey to defiance

Victims of Israel's assault on Gaza. The woman on the right lost her husband and three children in a white phosphorus attack
(Pic: Patrick Ward and Stewart Halforty)

Patrick Ward and Stewart Halforty recently travelled to Gaza to film the aftermath of Israel's onslaught. Patrick writes about their experiences

Nothing shows the brutal power of Israeli weaponry better than the piles of rubble that greeted us as we crossed into Gaza.

Some had been homes just a few weeks previously, others had been offices or schools. Now they lay pulverised.

We had set out to make a film about our attempts to cross into occupied Palestine. We called it The Road to Gaza because we had no assurances that we would get into the territory – Gaza has been under a tight siege for over two years now, and under Israeli control for over 40 years.

Our first stop was the Egyptian coastal town of Arish, some 50 kilometres from the Rafah crossing into Gaza. Arish is in the Sinai peninsular, a very poor region of Egypt – something that was noted by Palestinians when they broke out of Gaza in September 2005.

The town was festooned with Palestinian flags. The Egyptian state struggles to keep control over a region where people feel they are closer to Palestine than to Cairo.

During the recent Israeli onslaught on Gaza, Arish exploded with mass demonstrations day after day.

We met a journalist for Al-Ahram Daily (Arabic only), one of Egypt's most popular newspapers. He told us that the communities of the Sinai and Gaza see themselves as one, and are scornful of a border drawn up by Western imperialism after the First World War.

The conversation quickly turned to the solidarity movement in Britain. The wave of university occupations has particularly captured the imagination of people in Egypt.

The next morning we travelled to the border town of Rafah and met some 40 peace activists from Italy, France and the US. They had been waiting for five days to cross into Gaza, spending restless nights under the stars listening to heavy explosions as Israeli jets blasted the entrances to the smuggling tunnels that pepper the border.

We sat in on a meeting of international activists called to discuss how to put more pressure on the Arab regimes – including Egypt – to support the Palestinians.

Collaboration

The Rafah crossing is the most overt example of Arab collaboration with Israel. The Egyptian government has attempted to block the flow of people, food and medicines into Gaza.

The meeting was interrupted by an Egyptian soldier who told the activists that they would finally be allowed to cross. We followed them through into Gaza the next morning.

The crossing point is a surreal mix of airport terminal and interrogation centre, although the questions were delivered over cups of tea. We explained the purpose of our film to the Palestinian authorities and were let through.

We took a taxi and journeyed along the main road north through Gaza. The astonishing scale of the destruction soon became apparent.

The buildings were riddled with holes. At the roadside lay rubble and several dead horses. But the streets were being cleaned as Palestinians busied themselves with repairs.

Perhaps this was part of the steadfastness and resilience that has so frustrated the Israelis despite the decades of violence and repression they have meted out.

We stopped at a huge building in a wasteland. It had once been the police training academy, but had been bombed repeatedly while the trainees gathered for a graduation ceremony, killing dozens. The massacre was the first act of Israel's latest war on Gaza, which began late in December.

Defiant

The behaviour of the children was striking. Five-year-old boys on the street stood bolt upright, arms defiantly at their sides. Occasionally one would thrust pieces of shrapnel and melted magazine cartridges at us.

Our trip was cut short when our guide, who was from the ruling Hamas organisation, warned us that he had received word that the Israelis were about to launch an air raid.

Gaza is full of such rumours, but the scale and intensity of Israel's destructive power meant that all warnings have to be taken seriously. So we climbed into a cab and drove quickly away.

We passed a destroyed cement factory, then a string of farm buildings in ruins. Tank tracks embedded in tarmac or churned up deep red soil bore witness to the Israeli incursion.

Ahead and behind was a trail of devastation. On one farm the trees and a villa had been flattened to give Israeli gunners a clear view of the area.

That night we stayed in the Palestine Hotel by the sea. The warm and calm Mediterranean evening was punctuated with flurries of distant gunfire, usually directed at small fishing boats used by Palestinians.

The following morning we were confronted by an immense human tragedy. We met two guides – an uncle and his nephew – who were to travel with us for our remaining time in Gaza. One was a supporter of Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, the other was from their Hamas rivals.

We drove to a dirty clearing in the middle of a wasteland. The landscape that now looked post-apocalyptic was once farmland and housing.

This is the Zeitoun area, south of Gaza City. It was here that one of the most notorious incidents of the war took place. We visited the surviving members of the Samouni family who were sheltering under a makeshift tent. The children took turns to sleep, wrapped up in a few blankets.

Israeli tanks had attacked the area on 5 January. "They told the people to come into this house," said Mohammed Samouni, a school teacher. "Around 100 people gathered here, while three people left the house to collect food."

These were immediately shot at. Moments later a barrage of shells hit the house, demolishing it and bringing it crashing down on the remaining inhabitants. "About 20 people were killed here, 15 of them children," said Mohammed.

Instructed

Seven-year-old Ali told us how his father had left his house after soldiers instructed the head of the family to come out. He stepped out holding his passport as identification and was shot dead. Ali pointed to multiple places on his own body, indicating where the bullets sliced through his father.

Some 48 members of the Samouni family were killed that day, alongside scores of others in the town. The Red Crescent humanitarian organisation tried to come to the aid of the family, but after taking in some of the wounded, Israeli soldiers started shooting at them.

Children were trapped for four days with the corpses of their family. When medics were finally allowed back into the area they found the children hungry, thirsty and deeply distressed.

The Red Crescent finally evacuated over 100 people and treated them for hunger and dehydration. Water had been cut off during the fighting. One of the women asked, "We have been promised aid from governments around the world – but where is it?"

It is a good question. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton pledged nearly $900 million for Gaza. But little has trickled through the Israel-controlled border crossing.

The excuse is that the aid might "fall into the wrong hands" – meaning Hamas and other resistance organisations.

We were then taken to meet a woman whose family had been burned to death. Their house was near the border with Israel.

Their roof was hit by a bomb – and then by white phosphorus. Her daughter died in her arms. Another badly-burned child cried out that he wanted to pray, before he too died. The woman lost her husband and three children that day.

Horrors

The horrors did not stop there. The Israeli army came to her home, threw a grenade through the front door and set up camp in the house.

The stench of the dead soon became too much for them, so Israeli troops dumped the bodies onto the road and covered them with sand. The soldiers scrawled obscenities all over the walls. In the mother's bedroom they drew a Star of David next to the words, "We aren't sorry. Nice panties."

As we stood on the balcony of the house, we saw surrounding flats and houses riddled with bullet holes. Many of the rooms had been blown out by rockets.

As the sun began to set we looked out over neighbouring Israel with its green landscape and modern buildings. In the air hung an Israeli observation balloon.

We drove back as night fell, passing the site of a bombed out American International School. We stopped to film, but our guides told us that the Israelis would fire at us if we stayed there too long with the headlights on.

That evening we drank tea and ate dates with some friends of our guides. This was in yet another place that had been overrun and vandalised by the Israelis. They had smashed a framed picture of verses from the Quran that hung on the wall.

Back in Rafah the next day we sat at the border and waited for the Egyptians to let us through. We heard the screech of Israeli warplanes flying overhead, perhaps trying to scare those attempting to cross into Palestine.

One Gazan told us how the jets were often heard but rarely seen, a fact that made them more terrifying.

We had forged a close friendship with our guide. He is 21 years old and just like many people we know – except he found himself compelled to defend his country from attack.

His pistol was no match for Israel's advanced weaponry. I left with no doubt in my mind as to the importance of the resistance movement.

Accusations of human rights abuses are now piling up against Israel over its use of white phosphorus, its targeting of medical personnel and hospitals, and its use of human shields.

Gabi Ashkenazi, the Israeli army's chief of staff, says his troops are "the most humane in the world". We were struck by the obscene nature of this claim as we left Gaza.

Doctor whose daughters were killed by Israel nominated for Nobel peace prize

Despite the inhumanity of Israel's Gaza war and his own suffering in it, Doctor Abu al-Aish said he would dedicate the prize, if he won, to Israel and Palestine.

From the Times of India
A Palestinian doctor whose three daughters were killed by Israeli troops in the Gaza war has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize,
an Israeli minister said on Monday.

"I have been informed that the Nobel committee has recognised doctor (Ezzedine) Abu al-Aish as a nominee for the peace prize, and I want to warmly congratulate him," Avishay Braverman, minister in charge of minorities, said.

Aish has vowed to devote himself to the search for peace between Israel and the Palestinians even though his three daughters were killed in January by Israeli troops who later said they mistook the girls for spotters directing Hamas fire.

"We must live in peace. I hope they will be the last children to die," he said after the death of his daughters.

He told Israel's Ynet News that if he received the Nobel prize he would dedicate it to Israel and the Palestinians.

Attack on police barracks by bedouin teenager a worry for Israel

As predicted exclusively on Gaza Solidarity, the Palestinian killed while attacking a border police barracks, lived in Israel not the officially occupied territories. She was, according to the Israelis, a teenage Bedouin girl, thought by most Israelis (in their strange world of anti-Arab prejudice) to be the most docile of their subjects:
A Be'er Sheva court Sunday extended the remand of the parents and uncle of a teenage Bedouin girl who was shot and killed after she tried to carry out an attack against a police base in the south.

The girl's father, Ibrahim al-Nabari, and her uncle, Awad al-Nabari, will remain in custody for four more days, while her mother was ordered held for an additional 24 hours. She is scheduled to be released today to house arrest in her brother's house.

The girl, Basma Awad al-Nabari, was shot and killed by Israel Defense Forces troops on Saturday, after trying to shoot at officers at a Border Police barrack at Shoket Junction.

"It's raining enemy missiles, the screams of Gaza ring in my ears. I have a strong desire to die for Palestine ... to die for Gaza," the girl wrote in her notebook, among other things.

Law-enforcement officials found the notebook, in which Basma expressed sympathy for the plight of Gazans and a willingness to sacrifice herself for their cause. Haaretz

Arab-led Peace Fleet to head for Gaza

A fleet of Arab ships plans to sail into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in a bid to break a 22-month-old Israeli blockade on the territory, a Hamas spokesman said on Sunday.

"A new uprising to break the siege is being prepared underway," said Adel Zourob, a spokesman for a siege-breaking committee sponsored by Hamas administration of the Gaza Strip.

According to Zourob, a lobby of 35 Lebanese and Palestinian organizations is preparing to send ships to the Gaza Strip by the end of May. "Arab and international campaigners will be onboard."

Israel imposed a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after Islamic Hamas movement routed security forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In summer 2008, western and international activists succeeded to dock their boats at Gaza after being searched by Cypriot authorities in the Mediterranean port city of Larnaca, their final stop before sailing to Gaza.

But later, the Israeli navy stopped several Arab ships that sailed directly from their origin homes.

chinaview.cn


On 6 February the Brotherhood Ship from Lebanon was attacked, passengers beaten and the ship seized by Israel.

Also, see more on the Peace Fleet initiative here

Settlers on rampage in Jerusalem - 3 Palestinians injured

Three Palestinians were wounded when dozens of Israeli settlers attacked their Saadiya neighborhood in occupied Jerusalem on Sunday evening, local sources reported.

They said that fistfights took place between the attacking settlers, who tried to force their way into one of the homes in the suburb, and citizens who defended their homes.

Israeli occupation forces protected the settlers and later intervened to stop the fight after the citizens forcefully defended their homes, which led to the injury of three of them and the detention of three others.

In a related development, Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib, the director of Islamic Waqf department in Jerusalem, revealed that the Israeli occupation authority had taken away an ancient rock that dates back to the Umayyad era from the southeast area of the holy Aqsa Mosque.

Khatib said that Israeli technical teams used a giant crane to extract the big rock from one of the ancient Umayyad palaces and took it away in a big lorry.

He said that his department filed a protest with the police department that denied knowledge of the incident.

Thanks to the Palestine Information Center

Ian Tomlinson - IPCC drags feet on investigating police despite overwhelming evidence

[update: 23:00 BST 7 April]

From protesters and bystanders to the police - Gotcha.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/apr/07/video-g20-police-assault
Exclusive footage obtained by the Guardian shows Ian Tomlinson, who died during G20 protests in London, was attacked from behind by baton–wielding police officer

Dramatic footage obtained by the Guardian shows that the man who died at last week's G20 protests in London was attacked from behind and thrown to the ground by a baton–wielding police officer in riot gear.

Moments after the assault on Ian Tomlinson was captured on video, he suffered a heart attack and died.

The Guardian is preparing to hand a dossier of evidence to the police complaints watchdog. more

Protesters, and the writer of this blog was one of them, have been vindicated in very short order, although it will come as no consolation to the family of Ian Tomlinson.

The Guardian/Observer has been the only national paper to take seriously from the beginning the claims of police brutality by protesters.

More soon.

From earlier post

Ian Tomlinson video witness: 'Police are murderers'. How long does it take for the Independent Police Complaints Commission to decide that it needs to open an investigation? The statement from 2 April still hasn't been updated
When all the available information has been assessed, the IPCC will make a decision about the level of involvement it needs to have in progressing the investigation into this case. more
Our live G20 posts on the day here


• We would firstly like to express condolences to the family and friends of Ian Tomlinson who died on Wednesday.

• Multiple witnesses have now come forward who saw Mr. Tomlinson before his death on Wednesday.

• We now have compelling evidence that Ian Tomlinson’s death may have been caused by the police – eye-witnesses have confirmed to us that he was pushed back from police lines, falling heavily and hitting his head, prior to his collapse.

• He was initially treated by protesters and their statements raise questions about the police meeting their duty of care to Mr.Tomlinson.

• The family should contact an independent lawyer immediately to arrange a second Post Mortem – this is their right. The family should be independently represented at the inquest that will follow. This must be a jury inquest.

• Our aim is to establish the truth and let the public know. We will use the internet and the press to put all the information we gather into the public domain.

• Witnesses will cooperate fully with the Independent Police Complaints Commission, however we remain skeptical about their process of investigation and the eventual outcome and we call for a full public inquiry to look into Mr. Tomlinson’s death and the police tactics used throughout the G20 protests.

• We ask the family to contact us urgently and not to rely on what they are being told by the police – the police are not independent and are likely to see the defence of their own members and organisation as their prime aim. We ask the family to urgently contact INQUEST on 0207 263 1111 so we can put them in touch with these witnesses.

Thanks to London Indymedia
More witnesses quoted in Observer/Guardian

Visteon sit-in votes for union deal - but is Ford playing?

[update 15:24 6 April]

Visteon workers defy prison threat - and walk free

Visteon workers occupying their factory in Enfield were jubilant this morning after a judge in the high court threw out the charge of defying a court order against the convenor Kevin Nolan and his deputy.

It's not clear whether the judge's decision was part of an agreement to vacate the premises later this week - namely the Thursday vacation dates voted on, at the union's behest, last night in the occupation.

There still doesn't seem to be a concrete proposal from Ford or Visteon on the table with regards the workforces demands on fair severance pay and pension protection.

Bankers walk away from stealing billions, workers get jail threats


Last night (Sunday), the Visteon workers had a meeting to decide what to do in the face of possible legal action against them arising out of the court hearing today.

The convenor Kevin Nolan had been given advice by the union lawyer that the Judge would rule against the workers and they would all be in danger of being dragged out, arrested, imprisoned, and have to pay the legal costs!

The deal that the union (Unite) is pursuing is that Visteon workers agree to walk out on Thursday and then mount pickets at the gates.

Not suprisingly workers voted almost unanimously to agree to a deal being made. However, there was massive anger at the union, and the mood at the end of the vote was very depressed. (Many workers in tears). And most importantly, in discussion with individuals there was a feeling that they may be making a mistake and that if Ford offered nothing some of them would be arguing to stay in. One woman actually didn't put her hand up to vote, and wants to stay in alone.

If you can make it down to the factory please try to - or the court this morning 09:45 at the Royal Courts of Justice at the Strand. It is an amazing experience. Last night there was to be a showing of Naomi Klein's film, The Make on factory occupations in Argentina. Solidarity has been pouring in and local trade unionists and socialists and have been welcomed, including some G20 activists helping with setting up tents on the roof and initial advice on squatters rights which is great to see despite the media lies about G20 'yobs'. Although workers have to be a bit nervous of letting people in willy-nilly because of security concerns get up to Enfield to show your support.

Come to the Haringey and Enfield TUC meeting at the North London Community Centre Moorefield Rd N17, Monday night 7.30 where Visteon workers will be speaking. And if you can, call a lunchtime meeting to bring a worker to, so we can keep up the solidarity and strengthen their resolve.

When the FT writes a major piece in its paper on Saturday on the sit-in, you know the bosses in the UK and US are terrified of the message this occupation is sending out to workers elsewhere - 'we won't have to take it, we can fightback'. This militancy could to other car workers faced with the sack.


Interviews with Visteon workers




Thanks to Ady Cousins and Jesse Oldershaw (Camera)

Workers at Visteon car component plants in Enfield (North London) and Belfast are occupying their factories. The workers, some of whom have worked at the plants for 40 years, were told their jobs were finished and given 20 minutes to clear their lockers. But they are refusing to be bullied, and are standing up for their rights.
The majority of the workforce are ex-Ford workers, producing products for Ford, and on contracts that were supposed to mirror Ford contracts. That means Ford should step in to offer decent redundancy, workers say.
Every worker should get behind the Visteon workers fight for justice.

Send a message of support now from yourself and any official union body to bobenham1@msn.com (Bob is a steward in the Enfield occupation but can get email). Copy it to stevehart@unitetheunion.com Steve is the official dealing with this.