It is very likely that this blog, as well as Facebook posts, emails and text messages of mine, will have been read by the police. In the two years I lived in protest camps social centres and political squats in London it is almost inconceivable that I did not work with, live with and befriend an undercover officer. At Occupy London (as we terrorised the nation with our public assemblies, workshops and polythene tents) it was widely understood that the place was heavily infiltrated by police, private spies and agent provocateurs. The police will have a file on me, small fry though I am, as well as most of my friends involved in non violent campaigns relating to housing, environmentalism, Occupy and squatting.
The recent book ‘Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police’, by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis is a chilling account of how hundreds of millions of public funds is being used to fund the routine abuse of peaceful activists, sexually and otherwise. Of the ten undercover police operatives outed so far, nine have had sex with their targets. One is known to have had a child who never got to know his real father. Eleven women are now sueing the Met for psychological trauma.
Public enquiries (that have not been made public) have been met with ‘official obstruction’ the book informs us. In 2012 when the spy Mark Kennedy was famously exposed. He was shown to have withheld evidence from court that would have supported the defendants (ironically subverting the course of justice). Kennedy has now moved to private sector spying. Corporate espionage is big business and private spies outnumber those of the police. Like the police’s National Public Order Inteligence Unit (NPOIU) the sector is ‘completely unregulated’. It is believed that hundreds of thousands of activists have had at some point a friend who is a spy. Given that activism in this country can only number in the hundreds of thousands we should all be outraged.
It is documented to be routine for the swelling undercover apparatus to monitor and subvert organisations and individuals looking into police misconduct. This includes the family of murdered black teen Steven Lawrence and the police watchdog the Newham Monitoring Project.
The stunts I have been involved in at demonstrations, the time I have spent behind megaphones and microphones and my outspoken advocacy of direct action though my work as “public figure” will be of interest to the police. I have been warned by fellow campaigners involved in legal work about the frequency with which my face has appeared in photographs at court cases relating to demonstrations.
I have never acted violently toward another person through my activism. Yet according to the police, myself and my fellow activists are “domestic extremists”. As such we can be infiltrated by paid spies who file detailed reports on our lives, and thousands of others. The days when this was limited to ‘violent extremists’ is long gone. All you need to qualify to be profiled it seems is to speak out against corporate misdoings.
Something needs to be done. If civil society cannot organise safely and effectively then we have no civil society. If we have no civil society then we risk sliding into a corporate security state. Do we need to wait?
But there are reasons to be positive. This situation is symptomatic of state that is scared of the reaction and instability caused by a regime of bank
bailouts and public cuts, where inequality and social deprivation is reaching record highs. The UK has the second highest concentration of land ownership in the world (second only to Argentina). Current political incentives to extend the squatting ban to commercial properties is in part fuelled by an agenda of political cleansing that attacks autonomous spaces of organisation and self education. It is the same paranoia behind police press appeals for members of the public to report any known anarchists. In 2011 the Occupy Movement, which spread across the world, received huge public approval. I have personally witnessed the extent of the apparatus of police repression used to infiltrate and forcibly remove the camps, including the recent snatch squads and fences used to stop pro democracy demonstrators peaceful protests at Parliament Square. The movement against cuts and fracking is seeing massive grass roots mobilisation across the country. It is now widely understood my most people that Government rules only for the rich. In the words of
Victor Hugo, ‘no army can stop an idea who’s time has come’. If our public servants are treating us like this, is there any reason why we should not all take part in mass movement of non-violent civil disobedience. Now there’s an idea.