Spycops past, spycops present

TODAY 15 January 2016 is the anniversary of dramatic events in Berlin, when people stormed the Stasi HQ to stop the destruction of files, and halted a cover-up of the secret police’s activities. Marking that day gives us an insight into present challenges: the ongoing secrecy and cover-up over UK ‘spycops’. These are the undercover police who infiltrated social and environmental justice groups for decades – and for all we know, are doing so still. They themselves knew that they might one day be called to account.

This afternoon sees the latest hearing in one of the ongoing cases against the Met police (and others) over the deception of women into long-term relationships. In these cases, the police have consistently flouted civil case procedure, attempting to issue their ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny‘ policy to the courts instead of a proper defence, and stalling to avoid issuing a list of disclosure documents – a required step towards trial.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, an officer blew the whistle over the destruction of files compiled about Jenny Jones, who’s role includes holding the Met to account via the London Assembly. The Met issued a statement saying it didn’t think there was a problem. Everyone else said: that’s the problem.

And in a grassroots development worthy of the Berlin protesters of 1990, the Special Branch Files Project launched this week. A collaboration between several groups, the project publishes documents previously released under Freedom of Information requests but now witheld. Showing files on particular groups – peace, anti-apartheid, strikes – alongside details of how officers are treated, we gain an insight into why the police cannot now be trusted as guardians of their history.

And that’s not least because their history is our history. How can we trust that the public inquiry will force the Met to come clean? The Undercover Research Group called for the inquiry to take action to stop the destruction of the files, for the unit to be shut down and officers’ access blocked. If investigation cannot take place, how else will we understand the impact of spycops and their various abuses and corruptions? As the spycops attempt to politically police democracy to death, we’re fighting for our society’s right to understand the past – and to change the present.

In advance of today’s hearing there will be a solidarity picket outside the Royal Courts of Justice at 1pm.

VIDEO: Kate Wilson’s recent visit to the Stasi museum (with thanks to Spied Upon Film):

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