Is Mitting just paying lip service to the legacy of Pitchford? What the latest #spycops files say.

Pitchford Inquiry logo
Eveline Lubbers, Undercover Research Group, 16 November 2017.

In the running up to the hearings early next week, the Undercover Policing Inquiry has released another set of documents. Since the UCPI’s website is quickly becoming unwieldy and impossible to navigate, we try to keep track of what is coming out, and what it tells us. (For a detailed overview what is known to date — and this is a work in progress — see our pages of spycops by number.)

A quick scan shows that the Inquiry has made decisions on the applications for anonymity for three sets of spycops: those from the oldest undercovers, from a few who were deployed in the far right, and from officers involved in spying on black justice campaigns, in particular N81 who spied on the family of Stephen Lawrence. In short, from the sparse information released, Mitting has chosen to start with both the easiest and the most difficult part, while also dealing with the stuff that is impossible be to avoid.

In short: disrespect for older people targeted, blanket secrecy on deployments into the far right for unexplained ‘real risk of serious violence’, and yet more secrecy for the black justice campaigns. Is Mitting just paying lip service to the legacy of the late Chair Pitchford? Continue reading

If only spycops were just paranoid fantasy

Yesterday The Guardian published a letter from the Undercover Research Group critical of a recent article by Paul Mason stating that spycops were a thing of past.

Among the various things in the article we disagreed with what he wrote, he stated:

Amid the social warfare of the 80s, there are people from both sides who could say, as Rutger Hauer does in Blade Runner: “I’ve done questionable things.” Unless we’re going to have a South African-style truth and reconciliation process, the challenge is to bury the paranoia and move on.

We argue that what is actually needed is the opposite of his suggestion, a full and frank discussion based on facts that bypass the paranoia, because as we now know all too well, not all that paranoia was unjustified, and in some cases the truth was worse than many could imagine.

Full text:

We must disagree with Paul Mason’s assessment that we should simply “bury the paranoia and move on” (Stella Rimington should stop fuelling paranoid fantasies about Jeremy Corbyn, G2, 17 October). It is highly unlikely that spying on protest groups and politicians has ceased. Though the two main undercover policing units have been disbanded, across the country police maintain “domestic extremism” (what in past times was known as counter-subversion) monitoring units, and these units work hand in hand with the secret services.

One only has to look at the recent Guardian stories on Prevent and fracking, or the account of the questioning of the sister of your columnist Owen Jones to see the same patterns are alive and well in the present.

In arguing that the era of political police spying is over, Paul Mason does a disservice to the desperately needed public debate around spying on political and protest groups. There is still no effective legislative oversight and no firm guarantee that it is definitely something of the past. Pushing the discussion away does not help those who have suffered grievously at the hands of “spycops” to find resolution, or to understand better what is happening in the here and now.

What is needed, rather, is a more open and informed discussion based on facts as opposed to supposition. Indeed, if we have learned anything at all from the undercover policing scandal, it is that much of the paranoia was not as unjustified as it was dismissed for at the time.

For this reason, it is more important now than ever that the undercover policing inquiry does its work properly in an open and transparent fashion, providing those much-needed answers.

Dr Donal O’Driscoll (core participant in the Undercover Policing inquiry)
Dr Eveline Lubbers
Undercover Research Group

John Graham and behind the scenes in 1968

Donal O’Driscoll, Undercover Research Group, 25 August 2017

Cover of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign bulletin advertising the protest of 27th October 1968.

The impact of the protests of 1968 on reshaping left-wing politics is well-known. It also had another important effect, the development of political policing through the use of specialist undercovers to spy on protest movements. One of those early spies, the Undercover Policing Inquiry has now revealed was a ‘John Graham’. Examining what little is known of him has allowed a rare light to be shone on the much less studied events behind the scenes leading to the outpouring of protest that year.

Politics in 1968 was dominated by the United States involvement in the Vietnam War. In the UK, the opposition was lead by the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign, a broad coalition of hard-left groups, but in the main lead by Trotskyists. It was the VSC which organised the mass protest of March 1968, when thousands of protests occupied Grosvenor Square and fought with police to get access to the US Embassy there. This caused huge embarrassment to the Labour Government of its time. With a second big demonstration being organised that October, the pressure was on the police to gather intelligence to prevent a repetition – and it was this which directly lead to the setting up of the notorious spycop unit,the Special Demonstration Squad under Det. Ch. Insp. Conrad Dixon.

1968 was also important because it was the year radical student politics came into its own. At the heart of this was the Revolutionary Socialist Students Federation (RSSF). Again a broad church coalition many of its leading lights came from the same Trotskyist milieu as the VSC. The core of the activists was based in and around north west London – Camden, Hampstead, Kilburn and the like.

Studying ‘John Graham’ has been a fascinating exploration of the history of the time, allowing us to examine rarely seen archives which documented some of the internal workings of the VSC. For anyone looking at an understanding of the history of protest at the time, our profile is possibly worth a read for that reason alone.

Founding of the Special Demonstration Squad

Continue reading

Rod Richardson – a pivotal spycop

spycop Rod Richardson

Undercover police officer ‘Rod Richardson’, who infiltrated protest groups from 1999 to 2003.

Donal O’Driscoll, Undercover Research Group, 28 June 2017

Yesterday, we released our profile of undercover officer ‘Rod Richardson’. It is one of our largest profiles to date, three years in preparation, with dozens who knew him interviewed. We spent this time and effort because, of those exposed to date, we believe Rod is one of the most important and his deployment raises significant questions.

(Also see: Rod Richardson: #spycop was used to undermine protest, 26 June 2017)

What we know of Rod is that he was deployed in Summer 1999, in Essex, where he turned up at the Save Gorse Woods campaign at Rettendon. There he offered his house as a facility to other protestors. From 2000 he becomes involved in two strands of work. In London he focuses on anti-globalisation and anarchist groups such as W.O.M.B.L.E.S and Movement Against the Monarchy (MA’M). The other is infiltrating environmental networks, such as Earth First! and particularly the alternative scene in Nottingham. He disappears in Summer 2003, saying he was joining his girlfriend abroad.

Rod was not a passive observer of the activism he targeted. He threw himself in head-first. He was on the front line or driving for big demonstrations. Carefully documenting his time in London, we can place him close to the centre of quite a few events which saw heavy policing, such as Mayday, DSEi and anti-monarchy protests.

There is good cause to believe that it was his intelligence that lay behind a number of pre-emptive arrests and targeting of squats and campaigners. When we studied contemporary newspaper accounts, it was clear how heavily the police were relying upon such intelligence. Having confirmed his presence at the time, it is now clear that Rod is a strong candidate for being their principal source. Continue reading

Breaking – Andy Coles resigns as Deputy Police Commissioner for Cambridgeshire

ex Met #spycop Andy Coles resigns as DPCCC.

Andy Coles has announced his resignation, effective immediately, following a weekend of press scrutiny over his past activities as an undercover police officer, in which the woman he deceived into a relationship called for him to step down.

Statement from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner

May 15th, 2017

Statement from Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Andy Coles    

There have been news reports over the weekend about which I am unable to comment.

This coverage is significantly impacting on my ability to carry out my duties as Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner.

I have therefore today tendered my resignation with immediate effect, which Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite has accepted.

I am aware that the allegations have been referred directly to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Statement from the Police and Crime Panel   

There have been news reports over the weekend regarding Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Andy Coles.

A referral has today been made by the Police and Crime Panel to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

As a result of the referral, we are unable to make any further comment at this stage.

Statement from the Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite  

Following news reports over the weekend, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Andy Coles has taken the decision to resign from his post with immediate effect.

I have accepted his resignation.

The matter has been referred directly to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) for their consideration, therefore I will not make any further comment.

ENDS

How activists dealt with Stasi Tactics before the fall of the Berlin wall

A couple embracing, while one takes notes behind the other's back
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

Top Officers ‘Blocking’ Spycops Inquiry’s Work – Morning Star

Morning StarFrom 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!

More:
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

Spycops Inquiry: Children & Young Adults Group

Children and young adults10 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: Grunwick to now

Strike to #spycopsSpycops 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 – profile of #spycop now up

Image of Simon Wellings

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