This morning, I walked from Bethnal Green to Bank in the rain, and laid flowers at the spot where Ian Tomlinson was attacked. So did hundreds of others. It was a solemn and subdued march, apart from the obnoxious ratty-haired man with a pink radio sellotaped to his head blasting out swing band music (there's always one). I found myself profoundly moved and had to go and have a smoke and a small pathetic sniffle round the side of the bank, out of sight of all the news cameras in the world.
And then something extremely depressing happened.
After the two minutes' silence broken only by the sound of snapping fucking clicking sodding cameras, two brave, calm women from the family of Sean Rigg , who died in police custody and mysterious circumstances seven months ago, stepped forward to make an emotional speech about the importance of proper inquests and how hard it is to get to the truth, expressing her sympathy with the family of the Met's latest victim. Unfortunately, some guys at the back started shouting and swearing about police killers, drowning out Rigg's sister whilst she was making her appeal for justice, and she faltered, and her relative had to take over.
More and more, I'm starting to understand what my female comrades from ethnic minorities mean when they talk about being silenced.
'Bollocks!' yelled one young white guy. 'The police murdered him, and you know it!'
Who the fuck does that? To the sister of a dead man?
The protest leaders, who were dignified throughout as befitted the occasion, tried to rally the mood, but something had broken. That one shouty white guy at the back who had to make his anger more important than everyone else's, he had broken it. I was there. I was in the street. I saw it happen. And it filled my stomach with ice. I am ashamed that a small dickish corner of the British left can still act like this.
It was a strange, tarted up and dampened-down saturday morning's vigil-march. I was there, in the street, whilst they laid the flowers and lit the candles. When the tealights blew out in what seemed to be the icy gust of a hundred closing shutters, I lit them again. And people started taking pictures of the cute girl in black lighting candles, because of course the image, not anything we actually think, is the important thing. But I'm glad I was there, and I'm glad I stayed to the end.
For a few seconds, at the end of the rally, the sister of Sean Rigg got up the courage to speak again, and asked for the megaphone back. 'Who are the murderers?' she asked.
'The police!' we yelled.
'Who are the murderers?'
And there was the emotion again. There was the rage, the bewilderment, the sense of shock at the cruelties of the infrastructure. And not just from us crusties. Because as we set out on the long walk home, having laid our flowers and taken our time for quiet reflection, at the back of the rally one police officer, in a quiet, snuffly sort of way, was weeping.
ETA: I've gacked that image from the Times. That's because it's my damn hand.
In other news, here is an article I wrote for LC and for LabourList, yes, that LabourList, don't ask me, guv, I just write for them. The editors originally stuck on the title 'Labour is a broad church of diverse ideas - let it stay that way!'. I politely emailed to remind them that no, that actually wasn't the point at all. Enjoy.