Monday, July 25, 2005

five bullets in the back of the head.

On Thursday, Tony Blair declared to his English constituency;

“We've just got to react calmly, get on with our business as normal.”

On Friday, an unarmed man was brought to the ground, and then shot five times, point blank, in the head. Because there was a suspicion he may be a suicide bomber. A main reason is because it’s summer in London, and he was wearing a parka. No one has openly suggested it was because his skin was not white.

Jean Charles de Menezes was a 27 year old Brazilian, working as an electrician and on his way to work. He was younger than I am.

The full story is still to come out. Police claim that they identified themselves, and that this unarmed man had attempted to flee, so they tackled and killed for fear that he was a suicide bomber with a bomb strapped to his torso.
There are so many questions remaining in all this is, why did he run? (Or did he even run?). Why were police so convinced that he was a bomber that they felt compelled to shoot him. The accounts of this violent manifestation of a city on edge differ greatly:
From the Times:
“[A] family member said that he [had recently been attacked and robbed in that area by a gang of young white men and thought the plain-clothes officers were muggers.
By far the most controversial claim comes from a number of witnesses who have cast doubt on police statements that they shouted a warning or identified themselves to the suspect before opening fire.
Lee Ruston, 32, who was on the platform, said that he did not hear any of the three shout “police” or anything like it. Mr Ruston, a construction company director, said that he saw two of the officers put on their blue baseball caps marked “police” but that the frightened electrician could not have seen that happen because he had his back to the officers and was running with his head down.
Mr Ruston remembers one of the Scotland Yard team screaming into a radio as they were running. Mr Ruston thought the man that they were chasing “looked Asian” as he tumbled on to a waiting Northern Line train.
Less than a minute later Mr Menezes was pinned to the floor of the carriage by two men while a third officer fired five shots into the base of his skull.
Again, Mr Ruston says that no verbal warning was given.”

The head of the Met has ‘apologised’ for the outcomes that result from the shoot-to-kill policy:
“To the family I can only express my deep regrets. What we have got to recognise is that people are taking incredibly fast-moving decisions in life threatening situations. There is no point in shooting in someone's chest because that is where the bomb is likely to be. There is no point in shooting anywhere else if they fall down and detonate it. The only way to deal with this is to shoot to the head.”

More on shoot-to-kill here.

This is frightening. Here we have the beginnings of a demise in civil society, with fear and suspicion and state control taking over, and individual rights and liberties steadily compromised under the umbrella of the fight against terror. All over the world, there are ongoing requests for more and more powers to detain without charge, for longer periods of time, with less reason. What is this supposed fight for, if not to maintain our civil society?

I agree with Tim Hames: “If al-Qaeda has created an atmosphere in which an ordinary person can have five bullets pumped into him by the police, and society shrugs its shoulders, then the terrorists have already won a modest victory.”

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