On July 23rd., the director of public prosecutions announced that no charges would be brought against the policeman who, with his badge covered, attacked Ian Tomlinson who afterwards died.
Ian Tomlinson was attempting to walk home from his job as a newspaper seller in the City of London. The attack was recorded on video. There was no scuffle or surrounding struggle to justify or account for the aggression.
The reason for inaction given by the DPP is that pathologists who conducted the (three) autopsies on Mr. Tomlinson's body did not reach identical conclusions. The Guardian's editorial included the following paragraph:
"It is clear from the report of the Crown Prosecution Service that efforts were made to reconcile the findings of the postmortems. Its inability to do so, however, is not some catastrophic misfortune. It is a symptom of an institutional failure. The problem is this: there is a climate of impunity among Britain's police services that is fostered by the reluctance of the CPS to bring prosecutions. It was clear in the events surrounding the death of the teacher and activist Blair Peach more than 30 years ago; it was clear in the events surrounding the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 for which no one has been prosecuted; and it is as clear now in the response to Ian Tomlinson's death. Things may have improved since the Cass report into the death of Blair Peach, finally published earlier this year, which found members of the Metropolitan police (none of whom was ever charged or even disciplined) telling "easily recognisable lies". How, after all, could police officer A deny that he had hit Mr Tomlinson when the world had seen him doing just that. Yet the sense of impunity is unchanged. This was never acceptable. Now it is unsustainable."
In the letters column of the Guardian, on the next day, a doctor reflected that he did not fear crime or terrorists, which do not impinge on his daily life.
"However, I now hesitate to express my freedom of speech by attending political demonstrations, for fear of the violence and intimidation of the police ..."
Another correspondent wrote:
"It is impossible to imagine the Crown Prosecution Service taking the same decision if a police officer had collapsed and died minutes after being struck by a demonstrator. That says it all."
Many years ago, in 1957, the great American writer, Norman Mailer, wrote the following in an essay called "The White Negro", published in Dissent Magazine. I was in my late teens when I read these words and they have stayed with me ever since:
"A man knew that when he dissented, he gave a note upon his life which could be called in any year of overt crisis."
I have lived my life differently because I read those words.
I have hardly ever dared to express my political views openly (still less loudly) and I have never attended a political demonstration of any sort from fear of the police and the spooks as well as from a well-founded belief in their essential uselessness.
I have lived my life in fear of the covert and overt repression of the British State.
Is that not a sad comment to have to make when your next big birthday will be your seventieth?
What sort of freedom do we really enjoy in this country when a white, thoughful, well-educated person like me carries this burden of mis-trust throughout his life?
Freedom is an empty concept when British police can behave as they did to Ian Tomlinson, when British soldiers become murdererers, as they did on Bloody Sunday and have in Iraq, when the institutions of government and of justice are subverted and distorted, as they have been in the last decade through collaboration with the American-led global "war on terror" and by falsely and dishonourably protecting the "culture of impunity" by which MI5, MI6, the Metropolitan police and others operate in their bizarre and twilit worlds.