How easy is it to be conned?
The short answer is that it’s as easy as falling in love.
Here’s how I know.
I’d always been involved in socialist and environmentalist organisations but I’d been out of the mix for a while. In 1992, when my story starts, I was recently divorced, unemployed, and alone with two small children.
One evening, free for the first time in six months, I attended my first Socialist Workers Party meeting, in Hackney, London. Here I met a friendly bearded activist with gappy teeth and a black beret. He was attractive. He told me his name was Anthony Lewis but everyone called him Bobby.
Soon, Bobby and I were in a relationship. It was loving and intense. He stayed at my place most nights. We had so much in common. We were both passionate about social justice and a fairer society. After a toxic marriage it was refreshing to be with somebody enlightened and kind.
But after a year, Bobby’s reluctance to be more involved with my children bothered me. I felt it was unfair on them to continue the relationship, and we split up.
In 2010 the news broke that an undercover officer, Mark Kennedy (a.k.a. Mark Stone) had been in several relationships with women in various organisations he was spying on. When his then girlfriend found a passport with his real name on it and became suspicious. Together with fellow activists, she confronted him, and he confessed to being an undercover police officer.
This opened a can of worms which eventually led to the unmasking of police infiltrators operating since 1968.They had overwhelmingly been spying on left-wing (particularly the SWP), environmental, anti-war, trade union and Black justice campaign groups. Not hate groups, terrorist cells or paedophile rings, as the government claims in order to justify strengthening police power.
Saving capitalism, not the planet, was their remit.
But I didn’t connect that story with my own history with Bobby. Why would I? He was utterly plausible as an activist. He seemed to genuinely believe what he said. Our love seemed real, for as long as it lasted. He came into my life and left again by mutual agreement. And after we broke up I moved on, and barely gave him a second thought.
Fast-forward to 2019, when I was informed by the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry – set up by the Home Secretary in 2014 after more than three years of public pressure over revelations about police misconduct – that Bobby was a cop. His real name wasn’t Bobby – and Anthony Lewis was a name he took from a dead child. He’d been deployed undercover in the Socialist Workers Party from 1991-1995, worked for the Met’s Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), and also spied on campaigns including the Stephen Lawrence Justice Campaign.
This was a bombshell. I felt completely undermined. Things I would previously have dismissed as paranoia or conspiracy are realities where the police are concerned.
So in July last year when Extinction Rebellion made a statement acknowledging ‘the stressful, intimidating and sometimes deadly experience marginalised people face at the hands of the police’, I was glad. I’ve been arrested a few times, and met some decent cops. But it’s time to stop saying ‘We love you’. I’ve learned to my cost that the police service is not a helpful, benevolent organisation reflecting the comparative social liberalism of the UK. The crude whitewashing of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities Report can’t hide the fact that it’s an institutionally racist organisation, serving an increasingly authoritarian state that uses inappropriate aggression and lies with impunity.
And now it’s set to get worse. At the beginning of March, the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill, also known as the CHIS or Spy Cops Bill, was passed. It allows for virtually any police behaviours in the gathering of intelligence.
The new Act makes no commitment to ending relationships by deceit, although currently the Met admits this tactic is ‘hurtful and wrong’.
Shortly after the Act become law, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was published and passed its second reading in the House of Commons on 16th March 2021. Extinction Rebellion co-founder Clare Farrell called it an ‘opportunist crackdown on our freedom of speech and civil liberties… effectively criminalising protest.’
If passed, the Bill will give the police new powers to clamp down on protests they deem a ‘public nuisance’, and criminalise anyone using, or believed to be intending to use, civil disobedience or direct action tactics. It will also entail increased penalties and sentencing powers, most notably making the minimum sentence for defacing a statue (10 years), twice that of rape (5). The government’s priorities are in no doubt.
This Bill, which would fundamentally challenge our right to protest in a way that allows people to hear us, has not yet been enshrined in law, and our protests continue.
If we want to save life on this planet, we need to defend our right to protest, and to be heard. Despite the reluctance of the British media to report peaceful protests, no matter how large, disruption remains a vital way of way of calling attention to the threatened climate and ecology of the Earth.
Act now: Sign the Parliamentary Petition
Write to Your MP ask them what they are doing to oppose the Bill
Learn more: https://spycoptraining.co.uk/
Hashtags to use on Social Media:
#RejectTheBill #KilltheBill #FreedomToProtest #Protest4Protest #DemocracyIsDying #AmendTheBill #PoliceCrackdownBill #NoJusticeNoPeace #PeacefulProtest #DemocracyUnderThreat #FreedomOfSpeech #PeoplePower #WeWillNotBeSilenced
For information exposing undercover policing; https://undercoverresearch.net/about-us-2/
(Photgraph by Ramez E. Nassif on Unsplash)