It seems somewhat ironic that I happen to to be speaking in the House of Commons on the very day the Cabinet Office’s ‘Race Disparity Audit report’ has been released. Unfortunately, I have not yet had a chance to read the report. However, my understanding is the report will be looking specifically into the experiences of Black and Brown communities with regards to health, employment, housing, education and crime & policing.
I do not have to read the report to know the statistics and data contained within it will make for somber reading. The racial disparities that exist within the UK are still evident and clear. I fear the report will only serve to highlight this once again. It would appear that the specific experience of Black & Brown people living in the UK has been lost and buried. This is due to the amalgamation of Black and Brown peoples experiences with the generalised experiences of so-called BAME communities.
Similarly, as our experiences are silenced in wider society we, the Black & Brown participants who make up Group J (the Justice Campaigns) at the Under Cover Police Inquiry are again being marginalised within this very process.
The Metropolitan Police Force is trying to dismiss evidence of their infiltration of our campaigns, meetings and organisations by declaring them to have simply been ‘COLLATERAL INTRUSION’. This means (according to them) we were not the intended targets of the ‘undercover police operation. They would have us believe that they were targeting ‘dangerous’ Left wing agitators who just happened to come into our places and spaces. This happened whilst, unknowingly, in the company of and/or under the watchful eye of the Special Demonstration officers.
However, again the reality is very different. We the Justice Campaigners, are very clear that we are not incidental or on the periphery when it comes to the issue of undercover policing. We are central and quite remarkable within the UCPI process for the following reasons.
There have been more public inquiries into the relationship between the police and the Black community than any other group participating on the UCPI – there are evidenced reports to support this, namely Macpherson, Lord Gifford and Lord Scarman to name a few.
It was the weight of evidence gathered in all of these Inquiry’s and in particular with the publishing of the Macpherson report that it became widely accepted that police practice within the UK was institutionally racist.
We are the only CP’s who are/were directly campaigning against police violence and brutality.
We are the only CP’s involved in the UCPI who were (and still are) campaigning against ‘Deaths in Custody’. These are sudden and often unexplained deaths which directly involve the police.
Of all of the different CP groupings we are the only ones who demanded that police officers involved in cases that we were campaigning on behalf of are made culpable for their actions. Justice to us would mean that these officers be arrested, charged and imprisoned.
We did not HIDE, we were VOCIFEROUS and VISIBLE and continue to be so.
BUT Instead of getting the justice that we sought we were infiltrated by the SPECIAL DEMONSTRATION SQUAD. The SDS was a specialist unit embedded within Scotland Yard who reported directly to Special Branch. We have recently learnt Special Branch had a Black Power desk that specifically looked at the activities of Black activists.
We now know of there being only one serving Black SDS officer. At some point he was attached to us on Broadwater Farm. He was then sent to infiltrate the Joy Gardener campaign. We have been informed by a reliable source that he almost had a breakdown as a result of his ‘postings’.
The same source made us aware that the Black SDS officer’s managers took a view that in future Black officers should not be sent to spy on or infiltrate Black groups. The ‘reasoning’ for this is recounted in this direct quote; “as they are more likely to go native in comparison to their white counterparts”. Whilst this reflected the racist attitudes of the SDS managers towards their own officers it also meant there were now no Black Spycops in the SDS. As a consequence of this the SDS hierarchy had to find other methods with which to infiltrate Black and Brown justice campaigns.
It appears that the chosen method of infiltration which was adopted by the SDS was to utilise white Spycops. These police officers had previously and successfully infiltrated Left wing groups. They then used that cover to attend and infiltrate the campaigns and organisations that the Justice Campaigners were involved in.There is a real sense amongst many of the Justice Campaigners that we would not have been infiltrated if some of the Left wing organisations (who at the time we were in the process of developing new relationships with) had not themselves been infiltrated.
Today we are being dismissed as unfortunate victims of ‘collateral intrusion’. This dismissal is by the same police force who conducted their campaigns of intrusion and surveillance against us and against the grieving families that we supported. Within the context of these experiences and in light of the report released today I am stating that the UCPI is inherently racist.
As a black activist who has been campaigning against racism and discrimination for decades I find myself being forced together with other activists with whom I share very little in common and who incidentally have very little in common with me.
I am compelled to go to legal meetings where the vast majority of lawyers are white, have no understanding of institutional racism and are therefore unable to empathise with and understand my experience. Yet, somehow these legal experts are supposed to represent my interests?
We have an inquiry lead by a judge who is unknowledgeable on the topic of RACE which is central to this inquiry. This should be a prerequisite for the judge to ensure a fair and equitable examination of all evidence presented. It should not be necessary to remind the Non State Core Participant body that the Under Cover Police Inquiry was called because of the revelations made by Peter Francis ( the ex Special Demonstration Squad officer turned whistleblower). This inquiry was called because a Black family, namely the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence had been spied upon. The Lawrence’s campaign was infiltrated at the very time when Macpherson was hearing evidence on institutional racism within the police.
However, I have found myself reminding others of this occurrence on a number of occasions. Due to all the reasons detailed above there is a real sense that we, the ‘Justice Campaigners’ are still being treated as though we are just an afterthought in this process.
But amongst our numbers are families whose loved ones were killed at the hands of the police; these include the family of Roger Sylvester, the family of Joy Gardener, the family of Cherry Groce, the family of Michael Menson and finally the family of Jean Charles De Menezes’s.
Additionally there are families in the Group J and in Group G whose only ‘crime’ has been to seek to hold the police to account for their failure to investigate the deaths/murders of their lost loved ones. These include the families of Ricky Reel, Blair Peach, Trevor Monerville and Stephen Lawrence.
In addition are those who have been framed for the murder of PC Blakelock who were then fully exonerated. Included are Winston Silcott and family.
All of these families are defined as Non State Core Participants within the UCPI process. None of them have been able to access files held on them by Scotland Yard/Special Branch. Requests for files are consistently met with a blanket response from the police of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’. This is a position that actually has little or no legal basis. This response has been used for the past 4 years, to deny the ‘spied upon’ the chance to ascertain the detail, nature and depth of the surveillance that they were placed under.
These families are being denied access to the information held on them whilst the spycops and their bosses are seeking restriction orders and anonymity orders to ensure that their wives and children’s privacy is maintained
They speak about their rights to privacy and a family life whilst it is their very actions that have left the families, listed above, without their loved ones or without chance to hold those who murdered their loved ones to account. The judiciary and the Government are blockading (by their failure to make the UCPI open and transparent) the victims right to a meaningful search for the truth.
We should have preempted this, from the moment they defined us as CP’s. It is my contention that we are not CP’s, I do not even know what a CP is in the context of a secretive ‘public’ inquiry. We (those Justice Campaigners in Group J & H) are clearly victims of an inherently and institutionally racist police force. This said police force is currently being aided and abetted by the Home Secretary and the judiciary.