Ian Tomlinson’s death: a springboard moment for citizen VJ?

Screengrab from video hosted by the Guardian


The inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson – who died on his way home from work after he wandered into what had become the G20 riots and was shoved over by a police officer – started today. Paul Lewis has been liveblogging it on the Guardian, here.

The jury started off by being shown a video including previously unseen footage summarising the last 30 minutes of Ian Tomlinson’s life.
Investigators (and journalists) have been able to piece together what happened from all sorts of video sources. Independent Police Complaints Commission investigator Paul Tagg gave evidence this afternoon:

“He said there was a variety of types of footage: street CCTV, images recorded by a helicopter, “handheld footage” shot by bystanders on camcorders, cameras and mobile phones, and footage obtained by news organisations.

Investigators employed a company to trawl the internet for footage uploaded to YouTube and other websites. They found more than 5,000 instances of images put online.”

When you put it like that, the sheer volume of video-based citizen journalism – the digital eyes in the crowd – becomes apparent. And that’s on top of all the CCTV and media and police cameras, all beadily watching out for wrongdoing.

The G20’s aftermath was defined by three things: the death of a bystander, criticism of police heavy-handedness, and the mass of video that surfaced showing both of the above. Protesters and police have been investing in mini video cameras ever since, and it was casually shot video that proved beyond doubt that a police officer had attacked Tomlinson as he walked away from him with his hands in his pockets.

Of course, while this is all very interesting from a journalistic standpoint, I’m sure it’s no comfort whatsoever to Tomlinson’s family. But I will acknowledge this about video: I have read reams about this case, but none of it has made me as angry as watching that shaky, scrappy footage.

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This entry was posted in Amateur footage, Crime, Police, Protests. Bookmark the permalink.

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