Saturday, March 20, 2010

When police protect the Nazis

So far today more than 70 people, mainly UAF protesters have been arrested at the demonstration in Bolton, including UAF joint secretary, Weyman Bennett and leading SWP member, Martin Smith. This is not unexpected - the demonstration against the EDL earlier this month saw the arrest of some 50 anti-fascists whereas not a single EDL demonstrator came into contact with the long arm of the law - but is arguably indicative of the police's skewed priorities and tendency to see those who oppose fascism as the enemies of law and order.

Last week's Observer carried a piece about an undercover police agent, Officer "A's" infiltration in the late 90s of Youth against Racism in Europe (YRE) an organisation led by the Socialist Party which does what it says on the tin: fight racism in Europe, though diving headlong into excitable bullshit, the Observer peice described its members and those of other anti-fascist groups as "violent far-left activists". As the estimable socialist blogger, Phil BC pointed out, "anyone with a passing acquaintance with the work of the SP and its predecessor, Militant, know political violence has never been part of its tradition." One observes in passing that the same can't be said of the police whose treatment of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six is well known.

"Officer A" described the lengths he went to embed himself in YRE (he was a so-called "deep swimmer" , a deep-cover police agent who had to immerse himself in his targets' activities) and the supposedly successful outcome of his penetration of the YRE (he learned that a demonstration was going to be larger than expected, something which could have been worked out by the rather cheaper expedient of reading the socialist press).

A key section of "Officer A's" reminiscences concerned the 1993 Unity Demonstration by anti-fascist groups outside the BNP Headquarters in Welling, South East London.

The prelude to the demonstration was the election of BNP candidate Derek Beackon to a council seat in Tower Hamlets and most importantly of all a shocking hike in racist violence in the area, soaring by 210 percent following the opening of the fascist headquarters in Welling in 1989 and including the murders of Stephen Lawrence (pictured), Rohit Duggal and Rolan Adams.
The Observer said:

"Officer A took part in a much larger, far more violent, protest in Welling, south-east London, against a BNP-run bookshop that served as the party's headquarters. Intelligence he obtained revealed that the demo was to be far larger than had been expected and that a particularly violent faction was planning to storm the bookshop and set fire to it, trapping any BNP members inside.

As a result, police leave was cancelled for that weekend and more than 7,000 officers, including a large mounted contingent, were deployed. Instead of being spread out along the entire route, police focused on blocking the main roads leading to the bookshop and forcing the march along a route that would take it away from its target. A violent confrontation ensued with a group of hardcore protesters – Officer A among them – attacking the police lines in an attempt to break through. Dozens of police and protesters were injured in the clashes."

Many others on the demonstration that day remember the event and the police's treatment of legitimate protest against murderous fascist violence very differently. Historian David Renton recalls:

"A small number of people had broken out to the front, and were in front of the main body of the march. To our right, were very large numbers of police. I am told they had 4000 officers on duty that day: a large group of them were there, blocking our route. There was a very strange piece of street-theatre. I could see the chief organizer of the entire event, Julie Waterson, with a megaphone.

The next part is confused in my memory, but I think Julie was trying to explain to the march that the police would not let us pass. She was standing next to another man, who I recognised as the Holocaust survivor Leon Greenman. There were four of five other celebrities with her. Julie was just saying something like 'we are now going to try and meet with the police'. She was quite in mid sentence, when a group of police left their contingent: they weren't officers but riot police, walked towards her quite slowly, and then started laying into her and the delegation with their batons.
All hell broke loose. I was completely stupid, completely forgot the people I was with, and rushed right to the front. Later, there were pictures of the demonstration, for example the front page of the next day's Mail on Sunday has the headline 'Masked Mob stones police' with me in the middle of it. I remember individuals trying to rush the police, and then being knocked back with their long batons. The police would break out in waves and try and attack the crowd."

He added:

"Afterwards, I heard different things: that every police officer in London had had their leave cancelled, that the march cost more than £1 million to police. Some papers reported that 60 people had been hurt – I think 60 were in hospital, many more were injured. I don't think there were hardly any arrests on the day – the police were under orders to maim, to take no prisoners. The coverage in the press afterwards was violent and incendiary. A man I knew Jeff had its picture in the Sun, he was accused of throwing bricks at the police. He had been, after a friend of his was injured. He lost his job and he was so nervous about being prosecuted, he had to leave the country."

Let it be duly noted that in that same year - 1993 - the Metropolitan Police in South East London was doing its level best not to investigate the murder of Stephen Lawrence and arrest its perpetrators. At the time the police, which has a track record of leaking nasty information about people it doesn't like - remember the smearing of Stephen Lawrence's friend, Duwayne Brooks, and those raided in Forest Gate and the whispering campaign against the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, not to mention the posthumous smearing of Jean Charles de Menezes when he was barely cold - put it about that it had encountered a "wall of silence" from the local community about Lawrence's murder, that its hands were tied because of the dearth of information available.

The Macpherson Report exposed those claims for the egregious self-serving rubbish they were. Contrary to the police's version of events it emerged that the local community was positively bursting with information about what had happened on the evening of 22nd April 1993 and who had done precisely what. Indeed, the evidence showed that the investigation was so wilfully incompetent that Dr Richard Stone who sat on the Macpherson Inquiry commented revealingly, "there was a large amount of information that the police were either not processing or were suppressing" and he observed "a strong smell of corruption" about the whole matter.

The fact that the incomprehensibly wealthy Clifford Norris, father of Lawrence murder suspect, David Norris, is said to have had friendly relations with key police personnel, is, I suppose, purely coindidental, just as it must have been a simple oversight on the part of the relevant police officers that they failed to give Stephen Lawrence first-aid when they found him that night, fatally injured, his life-blood draining away.

To date no one has been convicted of Stephen Lawrence's murder and only one police officer, senior detective inspector, Ben Bullock, faced disciplinary charges for his role in the extraordinarily incompetant police investigation. In 1997 the Lawrence family launched a formal complaint with the Police Complaints Authority, which exonerated officers who had worked on the case of racism. Bullock, second in command of the investigation into Stephen Lawrence's murder was found guilty of failure to brief officers properly and failure to investigate fully an anonymous letter sent to police but was acquitted of 11 other charges and promptly retired the day after his punishment was announced, as did four other officers who would also have been charged as a result of the inquiry. And at the beginning of this month it emerged that there would be no further action taken against a retired police officer and civilian staff worker arrested over claims that evidence was hidden during the Stephen Lawrence murder enquiry.
One appreciates that the police has a job to do but seen in this context - the record shows that pots of money have been thrown at placing undercover operatives in anti-fascist organisations and policing anti-fascist demonstrations at the same time that investigations into racist murders were strangely mishandled - and the old anti-fascist chant, "police protect the Nazis" seems more than legitimate. What a crazy state of affairs that is.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose they were only protecting those who most of them agree with

3/20/2010 8:57 PM  
Blogger Madam Miaow said...

The Benjamin Zephenaya poem is very moving. Unbelievable that despite the cover-up, no-one has been held accountable for this young man's death.

3/25/2010 11:28 AM  

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