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Independent public inquiry demanded into police infiltration and conspiracies
Well over 100 legal workers from the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, anti-racist campaigners, environmentalists, and trade unionists attended the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS) public meeting on 27 February.
The chair, Liz Davies, described how the campaign came about following media revelations last year of police infiltration, by the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), of anti-racist and environmentalists' campaigns. Special Branch police and building industry firms also conspired to secretly blacklist building worker trade union activists.
Despite the evidence of former police spies, no official investigation has been ordered by the government. Instead former police agent Peter Francis, who went public last year on his role and who via his solicitor sent his support to the meeting, is being smeared by the police hierarchy.
Liz Davies told the packed meeting that COPS is calling for an independent, public inquiry, with powers to compel witnesses.
The solicitor Imran Khan read a statement to the meeting from Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen, who was killed in a racist attack in 1993.
Dave Smith spoke on behalf of the Blacklist Support Group, representing building workers who, on an 'industrial scale', were stopped from working. A House of Lords Select Committee hearing on the matter found that Special Branch police met building industry representatives. A police agent confirmed that MI5 and Special Branch shared files on building worker activists. Anti-racist campaigners were also targeted, even if they had not worked in construction.
One of the two defendants in the famous 'McLibel' court case (in which McDonald's sued them for libel), Helen Steel, told the meeting about the psychological abuse she suffered at the hands of police spying.
Robbie Gillett, an environmental activist, explained how undercover police officer Mark Kennedy joined climate change campaigns, taking on important roles in order to act as an agent provocateur.
The last panel speaker was Lois Austin, former national chair of Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE), which police agent Peter Daley (real name Peter Francis) infiltrated, as well as Militant (forerunner of the Socialist Party), in the 1990s. Lois explained that arising from Daley's role, large police files are held on her and other anti-racists and socialists.
Lois called for COPS to be a broad umbrella campaign. A key demand is for an independent public inquiry - there can be no trust in the police investigating the police or another establishment-run 'inquiry' whitewash. Not just the police tops but also politicians should be investigated about their role, including former home secretaries, both under New Labour and the Tories.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 3 March 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.