Photo credit Dimitris Legakis/The Guardian

South Wales Police have been exposed while unsuccessfully attempting to recruit Lowri Davies, one of the co-founders of the Swansea Black Lives Matter group, as a police informant. This is the first publicly recorded instance of police attempting to recruit a mole within the Black Lives Matter movement in Britain.

Working with support from Netpol and with journalists from the Guardian, Lowri has revealed police attempts to recruit her to spy on her activist group. Lowri describes her first contact with covert officers:

“On March 30th of this year, I had awoken to missed calls from a mobile number. This number rang again, within seconds of this phone call going on, I started recording. This phone call was by far one of the most sinister and traumatising experiences that I’ve ever been through. I was asked to be an informant.”

“It’s very important that you don’t tell anyone”

With incredible presence of mind, Lowri managed to record that initial phone call with the police, which can be heard in the Guardian’s podcast.

In the call, Lowri reports: “Officers asked me, as a single woman, to meet them at an undisclosed location in an unmarked car.”

While she felt unsafe and had no intention of acting as an informant, she attended the meeting in order to verify the officers’ identities and to try and find out what police already knew about her activist group.

Lowri believes Swansea BLM were targeted because of their campaign over the two recent deaths in South Wales Police Custody. Mohamud Hassan died in January 2021 after he was detained at Cardiff Bay Police Station and severely beaten. His death was followed just a month later by another death following contact with South Wales Police, when Moyied Bashir was fatally restrained by Gwent Police officers in Newport.

Justice campaigners: a ‘threat’ to public order?

This is not the first time police have attempted to spy on left-wing campaign groups and on anti racism campaigners in particular, especially those challenging police racism and corruption. The now-infamous case of police spying on the grieving family of Stephen Lawrence, as well as multiple other bereaved families campaigning for justice after losing loved ones to police violence, has been well documented.

It fits a pattern of racially stereotyping Black campaigners, especially in new or emerging groups, as a public order “threat” and then using this to justify using the full resources of political policing to build profiles on their prominent members, strength and allies. The claim made by South Wales Police that this is a “highly regulated tactic” is highly questionable but the acknowledgement that it is “used by police forces across the country” is undoubtedly true.

Also cause for concern is the claim by South Wales Police that:

“Protest organisers have an obligation to liaise with police forces, and South Wales police has a proven track record in working with organisers to facilitate lawful protest while minimising disruption to the wider public.”

In fact, organisers are under no obligation to inform police of planned protests, although sometimes police unlawfully use this as an excuse to target particular groups. Netpol has already worked with Cardiff BLM to South Wales Police’s attitude to BLM campaigners: officers have been accused of intimidating, mocking and harassing young activists on their way to and from vigils and demonstrations.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever feel safe again”

Officers attempted to gain Lowri’s trust by claiming they were seeking details of local far-right counter protesters who had been targeting the group, but wanted information on the members of Swansea BLM and it’s planned activities as well as BLM groups across Wales. This manipulation is particularly cynical given the findings of Netpol’s report on the policing of the Black Lives Matter movement, which highlighted the police’s systemic willingness to facilitate far-right counter-protests even when BLM protesters faced physical violence from fascist groups.

The whole experience has had a devastating impact on Lowri. In a personal statement shared on social media, she said:

“This experience has absolutely shattered my idea of safety, has uprooted relationships and has more importantly absolutely uprooted my thoughts about reality…Since March, I’ve been scared to leave my flat, I honestly don’t think I’ll ever feel safe again.”

Lowri is incredibly brave for coming forward. Given the police response to the growing power of the BLM movement, it’s likely that many more people have faced this kind of intimidation and this may be just tip of the iceberg.

Netpol are appealing for anyone who has faced similar police targeting to get in touch with us for support. Contact Netpol on our secure email address at netpoladmin@protonmail.com