Last night, a packed and at times emotional meeting at Unite’s headquarters in London launched a new campaign calling for a public inquiry into undercover police surveillance against political activism.
The Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS) brings together campaigners, trade unionists and lawyers targeted by undercover police operations and speakers yesterday reflected the range of police surveillance targets, including blacklisted construction workers, anti-racist campaigners, environmental activists and, as emerged last year, the family of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence. Continue reading
This post is by Netpol member Kevin Blowe of Newham Monitoring Project
After reports in June last year that Newham Monitoring Project, the east London community group I’ve been part of for over 20 years, was spied on during the 1990s by undercover Metropolitan police officers, I’ve wanted to find out if information about me is held on secret police databases. The Guardian reported estimates of up to 9000 people classified by police as potential ‘domestic extremists’ and so to find out if I’m one of them, I submitted a ‘subject access request’ under data protection legislation.
The Met were supposed to comply within 40 days but it has taken over six months and the intervention of the Information Commissioner’s Office to finally receive a response. If the details provided are complete, they confirm that the National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU), part of the Met’s SO15 Counter Terrorism Command, began logging my activities in April 2011 because I spoke at Netpol’s ‘Stand Up To Surveillance’ conference – ironically, an event debating the rise of unaccountable police intelligence gathering on protests and local communities.
The video below shows a Police Liaison Officer hurl a member of the press across the pavement, ‘for her own safety’ during a protest by the English Defence League (EDL) in Slough on Saturday. Press members have claimed this was just one of a number of incidents in which Police Liaison Officers used excessive force against them on the day.
“For Your Own Safety!” – Police Liaison Assaults Press from Jason N. Parkinson/reportdigital on Vimeo.
Police in Slough also used horses and batons to drive back and disperse anti-fascist protesters who attempted to obstruct the route of the EDL march. Four arrests were made.
Police Liaison Officers were developed, according to the Metropolitan and Sussex police forces, as a way to enhance communication and dialogue between the police and protesters, and to facilitate the policing of peaceful protest. Instead they have largely lost the trust of protest groups, following reports that they have routinely engaged in the gathering of intelligence, harassed activists and enthusiastically enforced public order strategies such as protest pens, kettles and mass arrests.
Students have spoken out at their anger and frustration at being kettled, filmed and questioned at the end of a demonstration at Birmingham University last night.
There had been a national meeting, followed by a march and an occupation of Birmingham University’s Great Hall. As the students left the occupation, they were met by lines of police. They were then held in a kettle, in cold and wet conditions, for up to four hours.
One student told us she had struggled to cope with the cold and wet and the lack of toilet facilities,
“It felt like forever, I needed the toilet and it was so horrible and uncomfortable and cold. When I finally got out my friends had to hold me up I was so cold and drained. I felt really helpless and wanted to cry.
My friend was in tears – this was the first demo she’d been on. She doesn’t want to go on another one ever again. The police terrify her now.
They kept us like that to keep our morale down, to absolutely smash our morale. I just feel really bitter and angry”
An activist has described how officers from Scotland Yard’s Counter Terror Command accosted her while she waited at the bus stop. Initially asking to have ‘a word’ the officers changed their mind and fled when the campaigner got out her mobile phone and started filming.
Emma is an anti-militarist activist, who is currently working with a group planning protests against the NATO summit, due to be held in Newport, South Wales this September. She is convinced that the officers were intending to ask her for information relating to those protests.
Emma says she had walked a short distance from her flat to the bus stop, calling on a neighbour on the way. She said she had scarcely stopped walking before she was approached, and believes they may have followed her from her home. One officer flashed his warrant card and identified himself as Counter-Terror. He used Emma’s name, and asked if he could ‘have a word for a minute’. Her response was, ‘yes as long as I can film it’.
The officer then appeared to change his mind about speaking to Emma, attempted to hide his face and move away. Bizarrely, a second man then got involved and tried to distract Emma by persistently asking her for directions. When she asked the second man if he too was an officer from Counter Terrorism both men walked to their car and drove away.
Emma may well have been correct in her suspicions. Counter Terror Command is now the home of the secretive National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU), the unit that operated Mark Kennedy and other undercover police officers. These officers infiltrated a variety of protest groups, and used intimate relationships with a number of women to further their deception.
The operation of the NDEU was moved from ACPO to the Met’s Counter Terror Command in 2011, but it is known to continue its use of undercover officers as well as other ‘covert human intelligence sources’, or CHIS – otherwise known as informants. Last November police faced fierce criticism after a Cambridge University Student made a secret recording with a hidden camera of an officers attempt to recruit him.
This is a guest post by Netpol member Newham Monitoring Project
The gloss and spectacle of mega sporting events can hide many potential threats to human rights and equality. Today, on International Migrants Day, we are reminded of one of the starkest examples of this: the pattern of exploitation of migrant workers that has cast a shadow over the preparations for global sports events in recent years. In September 2013, reports emerged of brutality and forced labour in Qatar, which is preparing for the World Cup in 2022. This is one of many instances of exploitation around such events that extend beyond the appalling denial of employment rights. These include the displacement of people from their homes (as witnessed in Rio’s favelas in the preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Brazil), unfulfilled promises to create jobs and affordable housing, environmental damage and harassment of working class, black or migrant communities by security officials, enforcement officers and police.
During the 2012 Olympics, Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) set up a human rights observation project in an attempt to monitor, record and challenge any detrimental impact on or targeting of local communities in east London. Today we publish a report setting out in detail how one of the UK’s longest-established civil rights organisations deployed close to a hundred ‘community legal observers’ (CLOs) during last summer’s Olympics, what these volunteers witnessed and how the experience of monitoring street level policing during such a major event can help other organisations, both in the UK and abroad, to consider using community legal observers in the future.
‘Monitoring Olympics policing during the 2012 Security Games’ is available to download here [PDF, 1.1 Mb]
After student protests, mass arrests and police brutality hit the headlines, news came that the Univeristy of London has obtained an injunction preventing further protests on its campus. This personal account from a Birkbeck student explains why one student will defy the protest ban, and join in a national day of action called for tomorrow, including protests at University London Union in Malet Street from 2pm.
Although I do support and whole heartedly encourage the many different political debates and activism around my campus I would not have entirely seen myself as politically active, until now. When I come to my university, and I have been here for three years now, I spend most of my time in the library with my head in books trying to understand the intricacies of the law. The incredibly slow pace at which it takes me to put all of the law into my brain requires me to sit in the library from the moment it opens until my classes start in the evening. I sit in my usual place every day, a window seat overlooking Senate House and Malet Street, and when my concentration lapses I stare out of the window watching the day unfold. This means I get to see a lot of what is going on campus. I have seen all the protests go past Senate House, heard the Samba band rousing the crowd, watched various causes gather at Malet Street and listened to the speeches on the steps of SOAS. Even though all of these occasions may have distracted me from my studies it has always excited me to see so many different people coming together to stand up for what they believe in, it gives me hope. The London university, probably one of the most pluralistic environments I have been a part of, with people from so many different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, sexualities and identities studying every day, coming together and joining in a constant dialogue and action. Being part of this environment has led me to learn about many different issues and ideas and made me, a person coming from a background of very little education and cultural diversity, a better, more worldly and confident person.