Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/782/17521
Activists demand full public inquiry into undercover police operations
Lois Austin, former chair, Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE)
Many of us involved in the movement in the 1990s to drive back the far-right racist British National Party (BNP) were angered but not surprised to find out the Metropolitan Police's Special Branch infiltrated our ranks.
Undercover officers had protesters under surveillance for many years. A great big spotlight has now been shone on this secret world due to the revelations this year from police whistle-blower Peter Black, alias Peter Francis, who spied on Militant (forerunner of the Socialist Party) and Youth Against Racism in Europe.
His brief was to set up special branch files on key anti-racist activists and, disgustingly, to 'dig up dirt' on the family of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence in order to discredit them and their struggle for justice.
The undercover unit known as the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) knew no bounds. Officers entered into sexual relationships with women activists and stole the names of dead children.
In response to these revelations YRE and the Socialist Party protested outside Scotland Yard demanding the disbanding of secret units which spy on protest groups. This includes those still carrying out undercover surveillance. All files on activists must be made public.
We want a genuinely independent, democratic inquiry with full involvement of all those who have been spied on such as the Lawrence family, YRE and blacklisted trade unionists.
A campaign has been coordinated by the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers and involving YRE, Social-ist Party, lawyers representing those who have been spied on such as the Lawrence family, lawyers who themselves have been spied on, women abused by police officers who formed personal relationships with them, the trade union Blacklist Support Group and many others.
Its aim is to establish a public inquiry which will look into the full activity of what went on and the involvement of those in charge of the Metropolitan Police at the time, including the role of politicians such as the Tory government Home Secretaries, Kenneth Clarke and Michael Howard. It is inconceivable that they did not know about the activities of the SDS.
We have taken the stance of refusing to cooperate with any of the current sham inquiries where the police are investigating themselves. Nothing short of a fully independent inquiry, looking at every aspect of the spying operation with the power to force the police to give evidence, will begin to get at the truth.
But to get this we have to campaign for it, and even if an inquiry of some description is promised by the Home Secretary, we will have to fight to get it to take testimony from all those who have been spied on. It could become all too easy to say it was acceptable to spy on protesters and left wingers but not acceptable to spy on family campaigns.
Our campaign is a united campaign determined to bring all of this into the open. We have published a joint statement (see www.haldane.org).
There are a number of events coming up including a public meeting later in the year. Please support our activities and get involved.
Haldane Society meeting
Undercover Police Surveillance: A call for a public inquiry
Tuesday 8 October 2013, 6.30-8pm
Speakers: Imran Khan, solicitor to Doreen Lawrence, and Lois Austin, former chair of YRE (spied on by the police)
At: University of Law, 14 Store Street, London WC1E 7DE.
In The Socialist 2 October 2013:
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