NOLU doesnít normally do politics. As a rule, we take the view that youíve got your views, weíve got ours Ė and somewhere in the middle we meet at Zampa Road every other Saturday afternoon. Sometimes though, certain events drag you away from the comfy middle of the road. Away from the subject of football. Away even from our beloved Lions themselves. Sometimes the hard truth that there are things more important than Millwall get shoved under your nose whether you like it or not.
Things like the death of a newspaper seller at the G20 protest for example. Things like the death of Ian Tomlinson. A man who happened to be wearing a Neil Harris tee shirt - and so qualifies to be included in a Millwall magazine - but whose passing is actually far, far more important than maybe he might ever have expected it to be.
The sight of a motley collection of Socialist Workers Party activists at the Orient game on April 25th was unusual in itself. Part of an umbrella group calling itself the United Campaign Against Police Violence, the SWP are not normally seen in and around The Den. Just like their polar opposite the BNP though, they thrive on chaos and the actions of bad apples - both in and out of uniform. The fact that they see potential for activity at Millwall should give cause for concern for all fair-minded people. Whatever the real aims of the UCAPV might be, the real worry for the average man is that the police actions filmed at the G20 protests on April 1st 2009 - and on many non-recorded instances at football matches around the country - make the SWP case of an out of control arm of the state to sound truthful. And that should worry ALL reasonable people whatever team they follow - if any.
The facts of the Ian Tomlinson case are currently under investigation by the so-called Independent Police Complaints Commission. The footage of his treatment and those of others involved at the G20 protests is deeply disturbing. Whatever view you might take of the protestors politics - naive is my most generous offering - the fact must remain that the police should conduct themselves at all times in a way that is legal and which uses only reasonable force. The sight of Ian being bashed to the ground from behind, the sight of the female protestor being slapped in the face and then batoned, the sight of the arrogant police behaviour filmed on mobile cameras should make you angry. If it doesnít then we have a real problem in our society that makes tonightís football match seem slightly unimportant.
But what can the average person who isnít Ďpoliticalí in the usual sense of the word actually do to change things? Sometimes itís easy to feel impotent in the face of a problem this large after all. But do something we must - all of us. If we donít, then the field is left open to groups like the SWP. What can we do? Well writing letters to your local MP, newspaper or police commanders might seem slightly nerdy, but believe me authority far prefers a passive population to one that actually starts to shine a light into the dark corners. Apathy is no longer an option Ė it might be your turn to be truncheoned next.
Ian Tomlinson was a regular Millwall fan. A man who probably didnít take an awful lot of interest in issues like police accountability, human rights or the process of law. He was perhaps similar to the vast majority of other people in that way. A man who just wanted to get across town to watch the Lions. But with one vicious sweep of his nightstick, the unmarked, masked police thug who assaulted him has maybe started a spiral of events that could yet leave a lasting legacy of his name. It really is up to the likes of you and I though. All thatís necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing after all. Ian Tomlinson deserves better than that as his legacy.
In memory of Ian Tomlinson 1962-2009: Millwall supporter.