Statement against Police Harassment

Police in Bristol appear to be stepping up their so far fruitless efforts to find individual anarchists and those that they think are responsible for property destruction actions over the last few years in Bristol. One year after their firearms training centre at Portishead was burnt down, they have turned to desperate measures to try and get any scrap of useful information.

They have made a number of arrests, detained people at airports, and raided people’s homes. The majority of people targeted have not even been charged with a crime, and we do not know of anyone who has been successfully prosecuted. Further, officers from CID have recently visited people at their homes under the pretext of having “a friendly chat”. Not surprisingly, they have been met with a resounding wall of silence with no cups of tea involved, as most good people understand the importance of not getting drawn into conversations with the police. Even if any one of the people recently harassed by these visits knew anything about these actions or the people involved, we are confident that common sense and solidarity would prevail and the police would get the sum total of zero information. Anything else would be working for the police.

These home visits, arrests, searches and requests to snitch are not just about information and evidence gathering. They have as much to do with a concerted effort to intimidate and divide us all. A big part of their plan is to scare people into inaction and to create divisions between us. They hope to get us blaming each other for increased surveillance to the point where someone falls for their lies and starts talking to the bad guys. These are tactics that have been used against social movements in countless places and times.

But they won’t work here in Bristol. None of us will ever co-operate with those whose job it is, all in the name of “security” and “safety”, to defend the rich and powerful while keeping us down.

We know that we are not the only people who face repression from the police – in no way do we want to compare what is happening to us to the things they are doing to others, for example their systematic use of anti-terrorism powers against people they see as Muslim. We oppose all police brutality and harassment, whoever they do it to. We also understand the need to stick together in the face of state control and repression. Anarchists and others targeted by the police have a wide range of opinions and preferred tactics, but we know who our comrades are and recognise the enemies at our front doors.

Signed:

Bristol Defendant Solidarity
Bristol Anarchist Black Cross
South Wales Anarchists
Bristol Solidarity Network
Bristol Legal Observer Network
Bristol SolFed
Kebele Social Centre
Riot Ska Records
Rising Tide
Spanner
Bristol Hunt Saboteurs
Empty Cages Collective
Bristol AFed

Here is some useful information on dealing with the police, both on the street and at your front door….
There are no friendly chats with the police! If police try to talk to you, we recommend you refuse to answer anything – answer “no comment” or “I am not obliged to answer that” to all questions. This isn’t just about protecting others – any other response will be taken by them as a sign of weakness, and they may hassle you more as a result. The ONLY time you legally have to tell them anything other than your name and address is if you are stopped at an airport under “Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act”. Even then, you do NOT have to answer questions about others, and they can ONLY ask you questions related to terrorism. If this happens to you, request a solicitor.

If police come to your door, do not let them in unless you have to. The only times they can force entry are when they have a warrant, when someone who lives at your house has been arrested, or in order to prevent a crime from happening. If you live in a shared house and someone is arrested, they can ONLY search communal areas and the room of the person arrested.

Dealing with police can be upsetting and intimidating, so it’s important that we support each other. Counselling For Social Change may be able to help if you need to talk through anything that’s happened http://www.counsellingforsocialchange.org.uk. Activist Trauma Support has a list of resources to help understand and deal with trauma – http://www.activist-trauma.net. The most important thing is to give each other space to talk without being given advice, and not to be left to deal with things alone.


Bristol Defendant Solidarity
is a group of local people committed to putting principles of solidarity into practice and standing alongside anyone facing trouble from authorities for involvement in radical politics. Anyone approached and harassed by the police to give information about people involved in struggle, here in Bristol or elsewhere, can contact BDS for support. We are also compiling a list of arrests, home visits and interviews at airports so far to get a clear picture of their lines of questioning, to track their operations and to use in any future court cases that people may want to bring against them.

Contact:
bristoldefendantsolidarity@riseup.net
07746741104

We have compiled a more extensive guide to police powers and your rights if they target you, which you can read here: bristolabc.wordpress.com/defendant-solidarity/police-harassment

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They come at us because we are strong

Statement on the infiltration by Mark ‘Marco’ Jacobs

For four years the Cardiff Anarchist Network (CAN) was infiltrated by an undercover police officer we knew as ‘Marco’.  During that time we believe he had a number of key objectives – to gather intelligence and disrupt the activities of CAN; to use the reputation and trust CAN had built up to infiltrate other groups, including a European network of activists; and to stop CAN functioning as a coherent group.

By 2009 suspicions had built up, but Marco had so effectively messed up relationships and trust within the group, that we were not properly sharing or voicing our suspicions.  In the autumn of 2009 he hosted a ‘goodbye’ dinner for the group, and announced he was leaving for a job in Corfu.  After he left, texts and postcards arrived for some weeks, but then suddenly dried up, without explanation. His British mobile number was not recognised on dialling it and the Greek mobile number he had been using after he left barred incoming calls and texts went undelivered. His social network pages became untouched.  Suspicions crystallised, but by now he had completely disappeared.

People who had been associated with CAN and the other groups he had become a part of in Cardiff, such as No Borders and Gwent Anarchists, tried to make it known within activist circles that the man we knew as Marco was an undercover cop.  But without definite proof we were urged not to make unfounded allegations.

It was only when news broke on Mark Kennedy and Lynn Watson that there seemed an opportunity to establish the truth for certain.  Following our leads, on the 14th January 2011 the Guardian obtained confirmation that he was indeed a serving police officer.  We don’t know exactly how this was done, but believe that confirmation came directly from ACPO, the Association of Chief Police Officers.  We were not comfortable relying on the mainstream media in this way, but all our previous attempts to properly establish who he was had come to nothing.

Marco worked on us (not with us) for four years.  He developed strong personal relationships and some of us feel an enormous personal betrayal.  But he also deliberately and systematically set out to damage a movement, and we think it is important that knowledge of what he did, and how he did it, is shared and discussed as widely as possible.

Possibly one of the most damaging things he did was use his CAN ‘credentials’ to infiltrate the anti-G8 Dissent network in Europe.  CAN had been actively involved in Dissent and in the planning of mass blockades at the G8 in Stirling in 2005, and some members of CAN were keen to contribute to a wider European network.  But CAN was a small group, and very few amongst us had the time and money to travel to international meetings.  Marco of course, had plenty of all of these, so it was easy for him to step up and get involved.  In at least one case he attended European planning meetings alongside Mark Kennedy.   It is likely that their activities seriously damaged the organisation of protest at the G8 in Germany in 2007.

Notably none of the three undercover cops so far uncovered went to the G8 in Russia.  Marco was due to attend, but pulled out at the last minute – presumably unable to get agreement from the Russian government, or authorisation to act without their knowledge.

Like Mark Kennedy, Marco also sabotaged environmentalist direct action.  In 2007, having managed to get himself included in the planning process for an action against the LNG pipeline terminal at Milford Haven in west Wales, he was able to pass information to the local police that resulted in the arrests of a number of activists.   All criminal prosecutions ultimately collapsed, but not before the police had raided houses, including Marco’s own flat,  and obtained computer equipment in what seems to have been a massive fishing expedition.

Much of Marco’s time though was spent getting involved in all the normal activities of a political group – meetings, film showings, gatherings and events designed to provoke discussion and debate about radical politics.   We believe that in at least one case – the showing of an animal rights film with an accompanying talk – he put on an event purely to gather intelligence on the people who would attend.  He was also keen on being involved in projects where there was co-operation with other groups, such as the campaign against the privatisation of military training and the building of a new defence academy at RAF St Athan.   Looking back now we can see he was carefully but consistently disruptive.  Despite his obvious competence, whenever anything – building contacts, outreach, transport – depended entirely on him, it would come to nothing.

Damaging the structure of CAN was undoubtedly a key objective.  He changed the culture of the organisation, encouraging a lot of drinking, gossip and back-stabbing, and trivialised and ran down any attempt made by anyone in the group to achieve objectives.  He clearly aimed to separate and isolate certain people from the group and from each other, and subtly exaggerated political and personal differences, telling lies to both ‘sides’ to create distrust and ill-feeling.  In the four years he was in Cardiff a strong, cohesive and active group had all-but disintegrated. Marco left after anarchist meetings in the city stopped being held.

Reading this, you’d be forgiven for wondering why the hell it took us so long to suss him out, and why we weren’t more sceptical and less trusting.  Marco had no obviously apparent life outside activism. We never met his family or his supposed mates who shared his passion for rock music, although he would at times claim to be away at gigs out of town. He told us he had no wife and/or kids. His house was fairly spartan and his job as a truck driver also allowed him an excuse to be away for prolonged periods without arousing suspicion.  Also, despite a stated desire to be ‘where the action was’ he was very reluctant to get his hands dirty by being an active part of direct action or confrontation with the police.  These things all together should have been enough to at least get us asking questions.

We may well have been a bit naive, particularly in assuming that we weren’t important enough to be infiltrated.  And the man we knew as Marco was very good at deflecting suspicions. He was likeable, personally supportive, funny and very useful to have around.  He was, like Mark Kennedy, a driver.  He took minutes, wrote, edited and distributed newsletters, made banners, and went to the boring meetings no one else could be bothered with.  He was able to exploit people’s vulnerabilities to either get close to them, or make them feel isolated and excluded.  He was a very good manipulator.

All of us who were involved with Mark Jacobs are reeling with anger, resentment and guilt.  Our failure to see through his charade caused great harm to people both here in Cardiff and across Europe.  We are aware that Marco was not the only cop operating, and that the fault, particularly on a European scale, is not all ours.  But still, we feel a collective responsibility and sense of failure over our part in this.

Having said all that, we need to look forward, and it is important to learn the right lessons from what has happened.  We feel strongly that it is important that the movement does not succumb to paranoia and suspicion.  Marco worked hard to sow distrust, dislike and suspicion amongst us, and it was allowing him to do that was perhaps our biggest mistake.

We also feel that it is mistake to paint ourselves as powerless in a situation like this, or to seek sympathy in the media as the victims of an unfair and all-powerful state. We can see how this might be tempting for propaganda reasons, or to win the support of mainstream politicians or the liberal press, but it is ultimately a disempowering act. The actions of the police and the UK state in this affair are disgusting, but not surprising. We, as a group and as a movement, were infiltrated and abused because we took, and encouraged others to take, militant action against a string of colossal injustices. Simply put, we took a determined stand against what we saw as wrong, and every time we were proven right. On the abhorrent war in Iraq; the corrupt and immoral arms trade; the injustices meted out in our names by the G8; and the scandals of man-made climate change, we stand by the rightness of our actions. We reject the authority of the state to tell us how, when and where to make our resistance, and we encourage further struggle and dissent. They come at us because we are strong, not because we are weak.

Three ‘not guilty’ of assaulting police at anti-Israeli demo, as more evidence emerges of ‘secret’ police files on protesters.

arrestWhen police struggled to arrest a protester at a demonstration against the Israeli Ambassador‘s visit to the Welsh Assembly last June, three of them alleged assault. One said he’d been given a kick in the balls, another that he’d had his wrist scratched, a third that someone had pulled on his arm. Three people were arrested.

But what came out of the court case, as the CCTV showed, was that it was the protesters who had been assaulted. They had behaved, according to the District Judge, entirely lawfully. Yet the three defendants had been pushed and shoved across the road, one had been swung around by her arm, another thrown to the floor.

Why? There were ‘concerns’ the officers said, but none of them could explain further. PC Cook said he ‘feared a breach of the peace’. But he could not tell us why he feared such a thing. “I had reasons,” he said, “but I don’t think I can tell you what they were”.

It was not enough to convince the District Judge and he found all three defendants not guilty, as the police had not proved they were acting lawfully.

PC Cook’s ‘reasons’ had been based on an ‘intelligence briefing’ received by all officers that day. But despite repeated requests from the defence, the contents of this briefing were never revealed.

This is further evidence that the police keep ‘secret’ files on protesters, and that they use this ‘intelligence’ (that even defence lawyers are not allowed to see) to justify assault and arrest. Other material that was disclosed shows that at least half a dozen others were identified at the protest and placed under surveillance, one of them having the movements of his car monitored even after he left the protest.

Protesters are not criminals or terrorists, and should not be treated as though they are. It’s about time the police came clean about what information they keep on their files and how they use it.

South Wales cops want more of our money so they can make our lives…worse.

A row recently blew up at the Welsh arsembly after local government minister Brian Gibbons threatened to stop the money-grabbing cops from asking council taxpayers to pay more to support policing.

South Wales Police had been hoping to impose a hike of 10% and has warned of cuts to policing services if the force is not given extra cash. Cuts to policing services, eh?

In his response to Gibbons yesterday, police authority chairman Russell ‘three jobs’ Roberts threatened to ignore the minister when the authority sets its council tax precept later this month.

Ian Skivens 5494 MET

Who needs Ian Skivens 5494 MET?

Today is decision day. We urge Gibbons to hold his ground. Cuts in policing services are exactly what we need. We’re fed up of cops playing around in helicopters, of cops driving round our streets like loonies, harrassing people, shooting pensioners with tasers, systematically abusing their power. Let’s face it. We don’t need the police at all. 

And as for Brian Gibbons and Russell ‘three jobs’ Roberts?Answers (abusive ones only please) to:

cardiffanarchists@riseup.net

Cops taser 89 year-old man to ‘protect him’.

The unidentified man from north Wales had recently been admitted to a care home, but had tried to leave on a couple of occasions. And it was after he’d left the care home in a confused state that the trigger-happy cops fired 50,000 volts into the pensioner. The man’s nephew said his uncle had been fit until about a year ago, but then had deteriorated and found it difficult to cope.

The man’s sister said she was lodging a complaint because she thought it was a

“diabolical way to treat an old man”.

And the response from north Wales cops:

“the specially trained officers made the judgement, in order to protect the life of the man, that the use of Taser was the safest and most appropriate option.”

50,000 volts to 'protect' an old man?

50,000 volts to 'protect' an old man?

We wonder when the first death by taser will happen in Wales. And when the first fatality does occur (there have been nearly 350 deaths in the US since tasers were introduced in 2001) we’re in no doubt that the cops will trot out the same response. No wonder complaints against the police are going up!

Welsh cops fail to win public confidence

A total of 1,601 complaints were levelled against South Wales, Gwent, North Wales and Dyfed- Powys Police; that’s a rise of 77% over the past five years! And the biggest culprit? None other than the South Wales cops, of course, Wales’ biggest force, which recorded the most complaints, 682 in 2007-08, compared with 242 in 2003-04 – a rise of 61%.

South Wales chief cop, Barbara Wilding, has a lot to answer for

South Wales chief cop, Barbara Wilding, has a lot to answer for

According to the near-useless Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), six out of ten complaints alleged neglect of duty, rudeness and intolerance and common assault.

In response to the piss-poor performance, a South Wales Police spokeswoman said: “We expect the highest standards of professional conduct from all officers and staff. The public can be assured that, if and when those standards are not met positively and complaints are received, they are recorded, assessed and any action needed is taken.”

And if you believe that…

Shock horror!! Cop found guilty in welsh court!

PC Craig Bannister of Neath Road, Briton Ferry

PC Craig Bannister of Neath Road, Briton Ferry

Traffic cop, Craig Bannister, who crashed his car on the M4 at 122mph was found guilty of dangerous driving at Cardiff Crown court on February 13. Bannister thought it fit to hurtle along the motorway, putting other motorists at risk, even though he wasn’t answering an emergency response call at the time. And, even worse for the hapless cop, prosecutor Michael Hammett described driving conditions as ‘appalling, [with] heavy rain, lots of spray and standing water on the carriageway.’

You would have thought that Bannister would admit his crime, but according to Mr Hammett: ‘When PC Bannister was interviewed he refused to accept that driving at those speeds in those conditions was dangerous.’ 

And yet despite the fact that cops appear to be above the law, Bannister was found guilty!

Tom Davies, IPCC commissioner for Wales, commented: “Following the guilty verdict in court today, and after sentencing, I will then consider the force’s recommendation for any misconduct action.”

Don’t hold your breath. If cops in London can get away with murder,  we don’t expect Pc Bannister to get anything else but a slap on the wrists.