Repost of Max Hertzberg‘s blog Stories from the edge of utopia, 22 November 2016. Pics by Carrie/1000 blackbirds.
N.B. In general, we are careful not to compare the UK #spycops saga with a totalitarian state systematically spying on its citizens. Max however has studied Stasi files and spoke to people spied upon.
Taking a look at the experiences of political activists in East Germany (GDR) who had to deal with Stasi informants and infiltration before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, this post is based on interviews with people who were politically active in East German times, and reflects their experiences. Those familiar with how police spies have been used for example in Britain may recognise the tactics used by both secret police and GDR activists.
The invasive spying and disorientation tactics used by the East German secret police (Stasi) meant there were significantly fewer possibilities for civil disobedience and direct action than political grassroots activists have today in countries places such as Western Europe and North America. Nevertheless political activists in East Germany managed to start a grassroots revolution in 1989.
East German opposition and activism
Because non-state organisations were prohibited in the GDR, networking and co-ordination between activists was informal: independent groups and networks stayed in contact through newsletters and the exchange of campaign materials, and there was a mix of local and regionally co-ordinated covert and open actions.
Activists in the GDR also campaigned on issues that will feel familiar to many campaigners today: anti-nuclear and peace issues, challenging economic paradigms of growth and consumption at any cost; resistance to an undemocratic state and its activities; propagating and practising sustainable choices versus exploitation of environment and animals. There was a strong emphasis on DIY culture with egalitarian, equitable principles – politically most activists in the GDR in the 1980s self-defined as socialist or anarchist. Continue reading
Peter Salmon and Eveline Lubbers, Undercover Research Group, 11 April 2017
Recently the Pitchford Inquiry confirmed Roger Pearce as a former undercover police officer (as ‘Roger Thorley’); the Undercover Research Group had already exposed him last year. We had managed to identify him based on details released the first report from Operation Herne, the police’s own investigation into the abuses by notorious spycop unit, the Special Demonstration Squad. And as our profile of Pearce demonstrates, he did not shy away from talking about undercover policing publicly – coming forward to justify relationships and the theft of identities of dead children.
We have since learned there are some anomalies in the information the police released, apparent mistakes with dates that are difficult to explain… According to Operation Herne, N85 – as Pearce was referred to – was an undercover from 1978 to 1980, and subsequently Director of Intelligence from 2000 to 2004, in which role he was also head of Special Branch.
However, Rob Evans over at The Guardian has understood that Pearce’s tour of duty as a spycop lasted from 1979 to 1984. Additionally, the Metropolitan Police recently confirmed to us that Pearce was Director of Intelligence from November 1998 to March 2003.
These anomalies raise several issues. Continue reading
From the Morning Star by Conrad Landin, 6 April 2017.
Pitchford participant blasts undercover police for ‘preventing disclosure’
Police chiefs are using “blocking tactics” to “prevent disclosure,” a preliminary hearing of the undercover policing inquiry heard yesterday.
Christopher Pitchford, who is leading the inquiry into the conduct of officers deployed to spy on political groups, convened the session to hear arguments over whether the coppers should be allowed more time to prepare requests for anonymity.
The Metropolitan Police has said assessing the risk of disclosing officers’ real names and cover names has taken longer than anticipated, and a March 1 deadline was missed. It has also asked for the inquiry to be narrowed.
But in a powerful address to the hearing, inquiry core participant Kate Wilson said the police were “obstructing the goals” the probe was aiming for.
Ms Wilson is one of eight women deceived into relationships with undercover officers who won legal cases against the Met.
“We’re not strangers to the blocking tactics used by the Metropolitan Police to prevent disclosure,” she said.
Read on in the Morning Star – and support them! –
Victims of political policing demand accountability at Undercover Policing Inquiry, in London – Real News video report, 6 April 2017.
Pitchford Inquiry transcripts of the hearings on 5 and 6 April 2017
Roger Pearce, #spycop, head of the Special Demonstration Squad and of Special Branch, and now an author.
Dónal O’Driscoll, Undercover Research Group, 29 March 2017.
Today, the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing confirmed that former Special Branch commander Roger Pearce had been a spycop. This was something that the Undercover Research Group had first publicly identified in October 2016, having stitched together material from various sources.
It was the police’s own Operation Herne which led the way, giving us the nugget of information that N85, a Special Branch commander had previously been an undercover officer and leading us to the identification. However, when we delved into Pearce’s public appearances, there were plenty of other clues, not least in the way he publicly spoke about spycops.
Defending the indefensible
When the undercover scandal broke, he was vocal in defending the indefensible – theft of dead children’s identities and sexual relations with activists. We now know the horrendous activities that the undercovers got up to on their deployments. Yet, he went on television to state:
The people I know and knew, the people who were selected for Special Branch and above all those who were selected for SDS, with very, very few exceptions who were known about, were people of integrity and honour and fired up by a sense of mission, to protect the country actually.
10 February 2017
One of the untold aspects of the spycops saga has been the effect of undercover police on children and young adults.
People have been affected in different ways. For some it is betrayed friendship with people they trusted, for others it is the affect on their family life. Others will have been directly targeted as young activists. We are aware that there has been a considerable impact to a number of people as a result. In some cases vulnerable people were placed in inappropriate situations, having been deceived by undercover police lying about who they were.
We feel this story is best told by those affected. As a group we wish to bring together and support those in this situation. There is strength in a collective approach, we can be more effective, stronger and we can also ensure that the fullest support is given to those in the group.
What we are looking to achieve is: Continue reading
Spycops and Strikers is a public event in London on Wednesday 15th February, part part of a series of Grunwick 40 memorial events.
7-9pm, Malet Suite, Student Central, 2nd Floor, Malet Street London WC1E 7HY. Reserve a seat in advance.
Should Grunwick strikers and their supporters be involved the Pitchford Inquiry to find out more about undercover policing? How to deal with the policing of strikes today?
In 1976, six workers walked out of Grunwick Film Processing Laboratory in Willesden and ignited an historic two-year dispute which united thousands to demand better rights for poorly treated workers. The workforce had a significant number of Asian women who were at the forefront of the struggle.
The events of 1976-78 are still remembered as an important moment not just in local history, but in the fight for equal rights for women and ethnic minorities. They brought people of different races and backgrounds together in support of the rights of migrant women workers, shattered stereotypes about Asian women in Britain, and changed the face of trade unionism. Grunwick 40 was set up to commemorate this vital moment.
Such a large, diverse and unified movement attracted serious attention from the Metropolitan Police. Continue reading
Simon Wellings, spycop with the Special Demonstration Squad (2001-2004)
Undercover Research Group, 23 January 2017
Today we’ve put up our profile of undercover officer Simon Wellings, our 13th such profile of the spycops who targeted protest groups. Though not the most high-profile spycop, there are a number of things that make his story important nevertheless.
Wellings infiltrated anti-globalisation group Globalise Resistance from 2001 to 2004. He was part of the group’s steering committee and in a position to gain information on the activities of other groups as well. These included the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Campaign Against Climate Change, Campaign Against the Arms Trade and Disarm DSEi, as well as the Socialist Workers Party and trade unionists. With Globalise Resistance he travelled abroad a number of times, taking part in protests at international summits in New York, Seville and Evian.
Being found out
Wellings is notable for the method by which he was discovered – while being debriefed about his spying , he accidentally caused his phone to ring an activist friend. That friend was out, so a copy of the conversation he was having was captured on their answering machine. Continue reading
Eveline Lubbers, Undercover Research Group, 13 January 2017
Last week, the Police Oracle revealed that nearly £750,000 from the counter-terrorism budget is being spent on an IT system to analyse police documents submitted to the Pitchford Undercover Policing Inquiry. Ian Weinfass of the weekly police outlet obtained documents under the Freedom of Information Act confirming that the Home Office approved the spending.
We had a good look at the article, found some nuggets and we have some questions about how this extra funding will be spent.
Sorting out police chaos record keeping
The IT contract will only handle documents from the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) to see if they need redacting before being released to the Pitchford Inquiry and subsequently to the public. The NPIOU existed from 1999 to 2011 and focused on activist groups outside of London for much of its history.
It is not clear why a second IT system is needed. An existing IT contract is covering documents relating to the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad. This contract has already been paid for through contributions from all regional forces – although the costs for that are not known yet. Continue reading
Repost of Evan Smith’s highly recommended blog Hatful of History, 10 January 2017.
The newly released files discussed here confirm what the Hillsborough campaigners have always maintained: ‘For the Thatcher government in the wake of Hillsborough, the focus was on crowd control and dealing with unruly elements of football crowds. The actions of the police, at this point in time, were never questioned by the government.’
Evan (@Hatfulofhistory) is an Australian-British academic interested in history, politics and criminal justice issues mostly related to activist and left-wing past and alternative scenes.
In my previous post looking at the policing of acid house parties in the late Thatcher period, I noted that the Home Office complained:
No amount of statutory power will make it feasible for police forces to take on crowds of thousands on a regular basis. We cannot have another drain on police resources equivalent to policing football matches.
In the same tranche of documents released by the National Archives at the end of last year was a Prime Minister’s Office file dedicated to the policing of football hooligans and the Hillsborough disaster of April 1989. The file is primarily concerned with the Football Spectators Bill that was first debated in Hansard in January 1989. This Bill was wide-ranging and had been in development for three years, responding to the recommendations of the Popplewell Inquiry, which investigated the Bradford City fire and the riot at Birmingham’s St Andrews ground in May 1985. As well as proposing new criminal offences related to hooliganism, the extension of exclusion orders for convicted ‘hooligan’s from football grounds under the Public Order Act 1986 and electronic tagging for particular offenders, the Bill included a membership scheme, which meant that only registered members could attend matches and tickets for away fans to be highly restricted.
While this Bill was still in development, the Hillsborough disaster occurred and the Bill was temporarily shelved, although as the Hillsborough Independent Panel has shown, the Prime Minister and some of her colleagues wanted to press ahead with pushing the Bill through parliament, despite the need for an investigation into the disaster. Continue reading
Repost of Evan Smith’s highly recommended blog Hatful of History, originally posted 31 December 2016.
Evan (@Hatfulofhistory) is an Australian-British academic interested in history, politics and criminal justice issues mostly related to activist and leftwing past and alternative scenes.
The policing of house parties is of interest for the history of the undercover policing, because the roots of the #spycops units are in the policing of travellers, a scene that had quite a bit of overlap with free party one. The papers Evan saw did not contain any reference to the Northern or the Southern Intelligence Unit though.
We may have to go the the National Archives to see the none digitised files for that.
The latest round of papers from the Prime Minister’s Office have been released, relating to the final years of Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1989-90. While files on several topics have been opened, this post will look at the file dedicated the policing of ‘acid house parties’ (also known as raves) in 1989.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the phenomenon of acid house swept across the UK in the mid-to-late 1980s and while a number of clubs, such as the Hacienda in Manchester and Shoom in London, attracted large crowds for their club nights, raves exploded into open areas that were typical venues – warehouses, fields and other places left vacant by Thatcherism. For a number of reasons, including the noise generated by these parties and the use of drugs, these raves started to draw the ire of the police and of the authorities. One briefing note stated that the ‘main problem with acid house parties is the nuisance caused by the noise’ and curiously, stressed ‘[d]rugs are not the main issue’. In a letter to the Leader of the House of Commons, Sir Geoffrey Howe, the new Home Secretary David Waddington wrote that there was also a concern that ‘criminal elements [were] becoming involved’. This concern, ‘coupled with the need to reassure the public that the existing law can be made effective’, Waddington argued, required a new approach. He also noted that 223 parties had been held in London and the South East in 1989, with 96 stopped by the police and another 95 prevented from going ahead.
And so, after a localised and haphazard response by local councils and the police, in late 1989, the Thatcher government proposed a co-ordinated and nationwide effort to clamp down on these ‘illegal’ parties. Continue reading