The outing of Mark Kennedy and two (and counting) other undercover police officers working within the environmental movement has created a significant media controversy, leading for calls for enquiries into police infiltration tactics. Plane Stupid, a network which takes action against the aviation industry’s climate impact, have been subject to two recent infiltration attempts, one of which took place in 2009, seemingly involving Strathclyde police.
In March 2009 we safely and effectively closed down Aberdeen Airport, cutting CO2 emissions and drawing attention to the social and environmental impacts of their expansion plans. Two men claiming to be from the police afterwards attempted to spy on Plane Stupid’s activities, by offering me cash for information. We recorded the conversations using a spy cam and a mobile phone, and exposed them in the media. We still don’t know who they are.
Strathclyde Police confirmed on multiple occasions that the names of the two police officers did not feature on any of their databases. To get any answers as to who the 2 spooks were, we’ve been locked into a bureaucratic ping-pong ever since.
At a whole other level of police intrusion, Mark Kennedy had been embedded within the environmental movement for 7 years. In last Monday’s BBC interview, without blushing or skipping a beat, former undercover police officer Peter Berklsey confirmed not only that there are more officers embedded, but that “people there are also undercover from the private security sector working against climate campaigners”. This makes my blood run cold.
The language itself is telling. Not ‘protestors’, but ‘campaigners’. Targeted not for taking illegal direct action, but simply for holding a view. And not simply monitoring: the ‘against’ testifies to an agenda in policing. As for the unnamed companies of the ‘private security sector’:
“Providing Peace of Mind in a Changing World”, “We take care of your security so that you can focus your energies on your personal and business affairs, free from distraction and anxiety”.
Sounds as inoffensive and sanitary as an advert for odour-removing, floral-fragrance deodorant? Meet C2i, the “Specialists in Security Crisis Risk Management” who infiltrated Plane Stupid in 2007 (and were exposed the next year). The private security sector can sell on information (names, databases, minutes of meetings) to large companies to whom grassroots campaigns pose a threat. They sometimes work with the police. They are not accountable.
There is a range of unpleasant options as to who might have been harassing and monitoring Plane Stupid in 2009: National Public Order Unit Intelligence Order, Confidential Intelligence Unit – both reporting back to the private company, the Association of Chief Police Officers. Or corporate espionage a la C2i? In view of such a range of possibilities, we are seeking simply to establish that the officers who approached us were indeed Strathclyde police, as they later claimed he was, under the public glare.
Strathclyde Police were uncooperative, so it went all the way to the Scottish Information Commissioner. Our request simply for the officer’s date of commission within the Strathclyde Police force was refused. I was told I could take it to the Court of Session (the Scottish version of the Supreme Court), or drop it. I would be liable for up to £20 000 in court costs. I’m an apprentice farmer, a researcher and a ceramicist: the epic financial risk makes pursuing this case entirely unfeasible for me.
The collapse of the prosecution case of the Ratcliffe 114 against 6 activists coincides with information on Kennedy’s involvement being required. Undeniably, strings are being pulled from high-up to avoid shedding any light on covert policing. If the Freedom of Information process and the Legal Justice system are covering up for the spooks, could it be that the very mechanisms which are designed to deliver transparency and accountability to protect the public, are being manipulated? The police need to start talking. We need answers. Silence is not acceptable.
Should we want to know what information Mark Kennedy was gathering and for whom, to know who appoints such considerable police resources to monitor the environmental movement, to know who decides to pull the plug on an entire prosecution case, to know who the men slinking around with brown envelopes and dark glasses claiming to be Strathclyde Police actually are, and we find all processes are either prohibitively expensive or opaque, where do we turn to?
Towards a demand for a full inquiry, not lead politically, nor carried out by the police, but in front of a judge. Towards the awareness of links between big financial interests and policing: the businesses we target have social and environmental consequences as massive only as the money they have behind them. Towards self-organising to monitor the police’s activities. Towards the silver lining of the proliferation of techno-gadgets: camera phones and YouTube. These can serve to bear witness: as in the killing of Ian Tomlinson, or to share budding tactics of resistance: Book Bloc.
We can turn to the knowledge that, in the environmental justice movement, we’re onto something – the reason we’re being so heavily targeted is that our impact is real and effective.
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’