Well the intention was to write up the remainder of the G20 and the NATO summit as a match report, with some comparisons between the British and European protestors that would not flatter the former. In Strasbourg, where NATO was celebrating its sixtieth anniversary, the black bloc didn’t muck about.

Those guys tore up a customs house and then set fire to a hotel (no great concern — it was only three star), the billowing black smoke of which could be seen drifting across the whole city where the conference was taking place.

The difference of course was molotov cocktails, a step that the UK black bloc has always been unwilling to take. This further demonstrates that, no matter how much they claim to be all grrrrrr, the UK black bloc partake of the general panto nature of British politics (this is after all, the country whose 60s militant group called themselves the “angry brigade”).

But one feels less flippant today because, as is becoming clear from news reports, the death at the London G20 march, was less a random piece of bad luck on behalf of the man who was killed, than a result of police biffo.

Ian Tomlinson, the man who was killed, wasn’t even involved in the protests. He worked at a newsagents in the area and was trying to get home (he was a divorced father, living in a hostel). Three complainants, including two journalists, have now come forward to allege that Tomlinson was batoned before he collapsed, as part of the police containment operation.

The London police operation used a technique they called “kettling”, by which groups of protestors were detained in small groups, with a double line of cops between each group, and a pretty full-on response to anyone who tried to break the “kettle”.

The obvious response for the anarchists would have been to charge with a flying-V formation, the weakest part of the cordon — which, it must be said, owing to anti-discrimination regulations would have been the stretch where there were two or three female police officers in a row — but none of them had played rugby, so they didn’t understand the principle. They were all in all pretty pathetic.

Indeed, that was the problem with the policing of the event. It wasn’t aimed at truly militant demonstrators — European anarchists wouldn’t have been kettled — but at the limitation of the mass of people who were demonstrating peacefully. It was a political technique, a way of limiting peaceful massing, rather than actual targeting of militant protestors damaging property.

If Tomlinson, trying to get home, was penned in, batoned back when he tried to leave and subsequently suffered a fatal heart attack, then the UK police have another innocent victim on their hands — after John Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician, who had seven bullets put in his head by hysterical out-of-control cops after the London 7/7 attacks.

His death then counts as a political one — a result of Gordon Brown’s determination to not be embarrassed at G20. That may well rebound on him, depending on what an inquiry finds. The European police may have lost control of the demonstrators, but they didn’t actually kill anyone.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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