It was, of course, expected that the TUC would work with the police in the planning of their protest on the 26th March. But the TUC has not stopped at discussing logistics and route planning. For this demonstration the TUC has been co-opted into the entire policing operation, bringing about a whole new level of police control.
Senior TUC stewards are receiving training directly from the Metropolitan police. The police and TUC stewards are sharing communications, and listening in to each other’s radio conversations. The TUC has a ‘pod’, a location in the police operational command centre, so it can play a part in the wider policing operation. In return for such ‘openness’ from the Met, the TUC will be expected to fully cooperate with policing strategy and tactics. In short, TUC stewards are expected to become some sort of temporary police specials for the day.
The role of stewards will be much more than just guiding the march on its agreed route. Senior stewards will share intelligence with the police via their radio communications,
and have agreed strategies on how to bring the police in if ‘trouble-makers’ infiltrate the march. The TUC is also working closely with the police to deliver ‘key messages’ to those
participating in the demonstration.
TUC route stewards are being trained to be a ‘first response’ in a similar way to stewards at football matches. They will alert senior stewards, and thereby the police, to any incidents, including the approach of ‘troublemakers’. They have been instructed to deal with minor incidents – a group of people doing a sit-down protest en route, for example –
on their own in the first instance. If or when the stewards don’t get a positive response, or if things escalate, the police will move in. It appears to be very much a ‘zero tolerance’
In a move that is completely new, the police have even dictated who will provide legal observers on the demo. Approaches from established legal observer groups were turned down by the TUC, who said having legal observers gave ‘the wrong impression’. But when the police suggested that Liberty should do the job, they were more than happy
to go along with it. Liberty have very little legal observing experience, but they too will be helping to plan the police operation, sharing ‘intelligence’, and sitting in police central
Meanwhile, some of the comments made by Asst Comm Lynne Owens suggest the police will not tolerate any protest not under police control. Occupations of public areas by protesters may not be unlawful, but she has pledged regardless to deal with them ‘robustly’. Plans are being made to implement kettles if they are ‘necessary’, and the
police are monitoring social media networks to gain ‘intelligence’. The Met are also on the look-out for the sort of people, ‘anarchists, football hooligans and criminal gangs’ that were ‘responsible’ for violence back in December.
The stance taken by TUC and Liberty is at best naive, and at worst complicit. Protest should be independent and not state controlled. These actions are being justified under the guise of protester safety, but this level of collusion between protest organisers and the police is unprecedented and unjustified. Freedom of expression and assembly is not just about marching from A-B, and by adopting this stance, Liberty and the TUC seem happy to adopt the police’s view of dissent. This is a dangerous step and has to be resisted
For an insight into the policing operation on the day see Lynne Owens evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
Despite previously being a good friend of the now unmasked undercover cop Mark Stone/Kennedy, like most who genuinely knew him well I have until now maintained a stoic silence on the affair, in print at least. I regret having to make this statement and do so only in view of the fact that I have been named in the national press at least twice in relation to the matter, and to clarify the facts regarding the issue in as much as they pertain to myself.
Bearing in mind that I knew him longer than practically anyone else in the movement, and was certainly the first person to be targeted by the ‘Mark Stone’ operation, I regard the publication of my name as the inevitable consequence of some activists talking to the corporate media and dealing with them in a way that has allowed ex-PC Kennedy to further profit from his infiltration of our movement while partially rehabilitating himself in the eyes of a few. It is also the consequence of certain elements divisively trying to present the parts of the movement they infest as liberal to the point of being unworthy of police attention, compared to militant political movements which are implicitly fair game.
I first met the man I knew as Mark Stone in the summer of 2003 and we quickly became good friends. He has stayed at my home many times, but as we lived in different cities, we did not see each other frequently and in fact only rarely engaged in any form of political activity together. When I first knew him PC Kennedy drove a small Escort van and appeared to have a modest lifestyle. He may have had access to large amounts of cash, but he certainly did not ‘flash’ it around me and I gained no financial advantage whatsoever from our friendship. As for his supposed cover story or “legend” as a former drugs courier, I only learned about this when I read about it in the newspapers.
Since PC Kennedy and I moved in slightly different circles, both politically and socially, I’m unsure how useful my friendship would have been to him in terms of meeting other activists. While a few people, for the most part non-political, may have met him when we socialised together where I live, we never travelled abroad together and I never supplied him with any personal contacts. In fact the only time I can recall travelling anywhere with PC Kennedy was on a trip to the English Lake District, when he drove the Skoda he then owned and I paid for the petrol. The only time I attended a demonstration at the same time as PC Kennedy was some years ago when we both turned up to a peaceful protest in support of asylum seekers at Lindholme prison in South Yorkshire.
If there were any rumours about ‘Mark Stone’s lack of trustworthiness prior to his unmasking I am certainly unaware of them, and consider them to be a convenient revisionist fiction. I was neither involved in nor informed of the investigation into his true identity, and only learned about the matter one or two hours before the news was published on Indymedia. It obviously came as a considerable shock to discover that someone I had known for seven years, and considered a very close personal friend, had lied to me throughout that period and that he had actually been an undercover police officer.
I do not own a camera and do not possess any photographs of ex-PC Kennedy, nor have I at any time had any contact with him or knowledge of his whereabouts since his exposure.
While it may be convenient for me now to be painted as “a powerful figure within the global underground protest movement” it is also a fiction. I am an ordinary, and unfortunately ageing, activist, no more “powerful” than anyone else. I know many people in the movement because I have been in it a long time, and because they are sometimes willing to excuse my “cantankerous” nature. In fact, I have not been abroad for nearly 3 years now and have not had a home internet connection for over a year. If ‘Anarchy International’ could have a whip round for me I would be grateful!
My sympathy goes out to all those personally affected by this affair, of which I’m sure there are many, both here and abroad. Police attention is an inevitable consequence of radical struggle and the lengths, and depths, our enemies will go to in defence of their masters should come as no surprise. The answer to State repression is resistance not liberalism.
Always in struggle
20th January 2011
(Posted exclusively to Northern Indymedia)