If William Morris would have been interested in Slavoj Zizek’s recent ‘Idea of Communism’ conference (see entry for 22 March), so too would he have had a sickening sense of déjà vu as he watched the police handling of the April 1st G20 demonstrations in London.
Today’s main editorial in the Guardian newspaper, in the course of a reflection on ‘violent deaths at police hands during London street protests’, makes just such a link between Morris's experiences in the late 1880s and our own in 2009:
‘the names of some of the victims – Alfred Linnell in the pitched battles with the unemployed in 1887, Kevin Gately and Blair Peach during the anti-Nazi protests of the 1970s – are still remembered. To these we may have to add the name of Ian Tomlinson, who died in the City of London during the G20 demonstrations a week ago. Mr Tomlinson, who was not taking part in the protests, died from a heart attack. However, according to numerous witnesses and to new video evidence which the Guardian is preparing to pass to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, he also died shortly after being struck and knocked to the ground by Metropolitan police officers’ (p.30).
Morris acted as a pall-bearer for Linnell’s coffin, spoke eloquently at the funeral, and composed a ‘Death Song’ which was sold as a one penny pamphlet to raise money for Linnell’s orphans. Let us hope that some contemporary poet can rise as adequately to the challenge of Mr Tomlinson’s untimely death.