Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The sinister face of British policing

Talking to some of my Turkish friends about the reports  of police brutality in the recent protests, you might get the impression that our own British bobbies are cut of a qualitatively different cloth.

Then just a couple of days apart, we get two shocking stories about the sinister machinations of our own police forces: 

Firstly, that an undercover cop was involved in writing the leaflet that prompted the McLibel case - the longest ever libel trial in British history. And secondly that another one was assigned the mission of digging up any dirt he could find that might discredit the Lawrence family's campaign to bring the racist murderers of their son to justice.

There's an element of humour in the first story, is so far that maybe McDonald's should now sue the Met police. Although I doubt the activists who devoted over a year of their lives to defending themselves  will find it quite so funny.  We already knew that the police had infiltrated anti-fascist organisations around the time of the Welling demo - but the news that they had done the same to the Stephen Lawrence campaign is beyond belief. Especially given what we now know about the police racism, incompetence and corruption that ran throughout their investigation.

Just as the British ruling class have been around longer than most, and consequently generally manage to keep us in our place with a seemingly lighter touch than in many countries - so maybe the police can afford to keep the water cannon and the tear gas back in reserve whilst they concentrate on 'black-ops.'

And if that sounds all a bit too paranoid, we should remember that  British history is riddled with instances of the state using infiltrators and provocateurs. Even before we had a police force, the Jacobean secret service connived in Guy Fawkes' Gunpowder plot to provoke an anti-Catholic back lash.  And government spies manipulated an emerging radical-democrat movement in the Cato Street Conspiracy as an excuse to bring in repressive legislation.

Of course all of this was in an age before the incentives of  book deals and fifteen minutes of fame to tease police whistle-blowers out of the woodwork - I predict more of these disturbing stories will follow ...

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