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Walkout from undercover policing inquiry
A Socialist Party press release
On 21st March Socialist Party activists were among around 200 core participants who walked out of the undercover policing inquiry.
Speaking on behalf of the 200, Philippa Kaufman said:
"Our clients are not prepared to participate in a process where their presence is mere window dressing, lacking all substance and meaning, which would achieve nothing other than to lend the process a legitimacy it does not have."
She explained that we had collectively "expressed a view therefore that you should recuse yourself from the inquiry or that you ensure that you sit as a true panel, bringing on board others who well understand the critical issues that shape and frame this inquiry."
Dave Nellist, Socialist Party member and previously a Labour MP (1983 - 1992), explained why he took part in the walkout:
"The government was forced to establish this inquiry as a result of public pressure following growing exposures of police spying - including against an elected socialist MP like myself, trade unionists, women activists, anti-racist activists and many more.
"We welcomed its establishment but warned there was a danger it would be a cover up. To be effective it would have to give the cover name of every police spy, but also look at who gave the orders and the role of government itself.
"Instead we have faced a situation that there has been virtually no information revealed about the cover names of police spies, and no real explanation given why not."
Lois Austin, Socialist Party member and a core participant from Youth Against Racism in Europe, added:
"Mitting seems to be behaving as if we were the guilty parties. Yet we were guilty of nothing other than leading a mass, democratic anti-racist youth movement.
"For that we suffered being spied on by the police. For an inquiry to do its job it would have to demand the police reveal who spied on us, when and why.
"Nor should it remain in the past. We do not accept that infiltration, as the Metropolitan Police have implied, no longer occurs.
"Surveillance of peaceful protesters has increased dramatically in the recent period. We demand to know what today's spies are doing."
Hannah Sell, Socialist Party deputy general secretary and a core participant from Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE), added:
"We hope today's walkout will force a change in the character of the inquiry. Even if this is the case, it is clear that the capitalist establishment will continue to work to prevent us getting the real story.
"That is why the labour and trade union movement should organise its own independent inquiry, made up of representatives from the trade union movement and the anti-racist and environmental protest groups that have suffered infiltration."
The following article was written before the above walkout
Demand police spies out of women's lives!
Lois Austin, Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance and Socialist Party
On International Women's Day, Unite the Union hosted a meeting of the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (Cops) at the Trade Union Congress women's conference.
Women members of Police Spies Out of Lives (PSOOL) gave reports of the relationship they had with undercover police officers. Alison (a pseudonym), a social justice and anti-racist campaigner, was deceived by Mark Kennedy. He infiltrated Alison's life and had an intimate sexual relationship with her.
Alison showed a video of their life together from the years when he posed as her boyfriend in the 1990s. He infiltrated every aspect of her life. He met with all of her extended family including nieces and nephews, children, who were also duped into thinking of him as an uncle.
Helen Steel - veteran campaigner who took on McDonald's in the 'McLibel case' - told a similar story of how undercover police officer John Barker (real name John Dines) infiltrated her political and private life.
Alison and Helen explained how these undercover officers - and those giving them their orders higher up in Special Branch, an institutionally sexist organisation - abused these women in the most outrageous way imaginable. They were used as vehicles to infiltrate and subvert radical progressive movements and campaigns.
There is an imbalance in justice at the Mitting (previously Pitchford) public inquiry into undercover policing. Since retired High Court judge Sir John Mitting took over there have been very worrying developments.
The police and Home Office have a large legal team and resources - in contrast to the non-state core participants, the political activists who were spied on, who have just two barristers. The police are doing all they can to undermine and delay the inquiry by submitting continuous applications for restriction orders and demanding anonymity for officers and for them to give evidence in secret courts.
They say these undercover officers are worried about reprisals if they are identified. But activists already know the identity of two undercover officers and nothing has happened to them. Our only interest is finding out the truth, uncovering the extent of political policing, and putting an end to it.
Undercover political policing is a trade union issue because one of the main targets of infiltration was trade unions such as the miners' union NUM and civil service union CPSA. We know undercover officers like Peter Francis gave the names of anti-racist activists to the Consultancy Association and Economic League which then blacklisted these campaigners from working on building sites for many years.
In response to Mitting clamping down on the openness of the inquiry, Cops, PSOOL and other campaigners organised a protest outside the inquiry hearing at the High Court on 21 March. Our demands are:
- No cover up
- Spies out of lives
- No to political policing
- End blacklisting
- Release the cover names
- Release the names of the organisations which were and are now being spied on
- Expand the inquiry to cover the activity of British spy cops in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Europe
We are also demanding that a panel preside over the inquiry made up of individuals who have experience of working with anti-racist and women's organisations and understand the campaigning and trade union movement, rather than just one judge.
Please support the campaign and affiliate your union branch to Cops and PSOOL - detail at our websites:
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 21 March 2018 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.