[UPDATE 15/11/2014 - Anarchists start investigation into dangerous police extremists - full report here.]
In the midst of a period of intensified police harassment of some anarchists & other radicals in & around Bristol, the Bristol Defendant Solidarity project and numerous other groups have issued a statement of defiance, mixing support & solidarity for those who need it, with legal advice & rights info. Here’s an excerpt: “These home visits, arrests, searches and requests to snitch are not just about information and evidence gathering. They have as much to do with a concerted effort to intimidate and divide us all. A big part of their plan is to scare people into inaction and to create divisions between us. They hope to get us blaming each other for increased surveillance to the point where someone falls for their lies and starts talking to the bad guys. These are tactics that have been used against social movements in countless places and times.” Read the full statement here and the legal info here.
Since June 2014 police have escalated their efforts to find the persons unknown who have claimed online a series of targetted attacks against the infrastructure of capital and the state, most famously the burning down of a new police firearms training centre in Portishead just over a year ago. Whilst police have been hunting for the anarchist known as ‘Badger’ since late-summer 2011, when the Bristol (Evening) Post building was attacked for its complicity in the post-Tesco riots clampdown, their renewed efforts seem to have been triggered by an article in the Daily Mail on 1 June. This near-hysterical piece, including rent-an-MP quotes, was most likely planted in the media by Special Branch to prepare the ground, and has been followed up locally by regular articles in the Bristol Post (a part of the same right-wing media corporation). What facts their articles do contain, come not from any investigative journalism but appear to be largely from communiques posted regularly online by the aforementioned persons unknown claiming actions, which total way more than 50 over recent years. A 10 minute doc on BBC1 Inside Out West on 22 September followed the same story (Youtube video). Nobody it seems has so far been charged & prosecuted for these actions, and it appears the police have no more idea of who it is than the rest of Bristol does, beyond searching for the elusive ‘Badger’.
The 3 year fruitless police search for ‘Badger’ has resulted in infrequent searches & raids (often of squats), a few pointless arrests, a couple of police visits to individuals’ workplaces, and the stopping of a few individuals at airports. Since June 2014 this activity was ramped up, leading to at least 6 arrests of individuals. However as far as is known, most have been released without charge, a couple have ‘police bail’, and some suffered extensive police searches of their homes. It seems very much that these individuals were literally in the wrong place at the wrong time. In addition, it has become known that more people have been stopped at an airport under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, but were not charged with anything. For a while the open-access news website Bristol Indymedia was the focus of police attention as a result of communiques posted to its newswire in recent years by persons unknown. Police visited various known activists in an attempt to find the people running B/Indymedia, and failing to do so they obtained a court order to seize its server in mid-August (details here), effectively shutting it down. This was the second seizure of the B/Indymeda server, the first was in June 2005, for a similar reason – the police hoped its server files would contain information about those posting up articles. But as in 2005, it doesnt, and you’d have thought the police would have remembered that?! Subsequent to the server seizure, the police seem to have re-focused on finding ‘Badger’, visiting numerous known public activists at their homes and asking for information, and/or encouraging them to snitch, but getting no information and as often as not finding peoples front doors firmly shut.
It must by now be abundantly clear to the police that nobody knows anymore than they do about ‘Badger’ and the persons unknown, and clearly the police have no useful evidence at all, so to an extent their harassment of activists can be laughed-off. Except that it is not funny. It is clearly an attempt to intimidate, probably an attempt to entrap, and possibly an attempt to fit someone (anyone) up so that they have something to show for all their wasted time – it would not be the first time British police have done that! Hence the statement above comes out now from activist groups offering defiance, and solidarity/support/advice for anyone feeling threatened.
At a time when the Tory/LibDem government, backed by most other parties, are suggesting removing protection of human rights and curtailing the freedom of anyone they deem to be an ‘extremist’ there seems to be an increasing momentum towards removing our traditional civil liberties and criminalising political dissent. The same laws introduced on the back of hysteria about Muslim terrorists can equally be turned against anyone the government wishes to target, just as the misuse of the Terrorism Act 2000 against political activists & protesters demonstrates. To do this they want to remove everyone’s right to privacy and snoop on your emails and phone calls. If this was Iran, China or Russia they would denounce it as undemocratic – but the citizens of the UK are all under suspicion by their own government.
The police are the most visible arm of our increasingly secretive surveillance state, sent out to do the dirty work of their political & corporate masters. We know from working class history and personal experience that the police everywhere are able to act with virtual impunity, unless we stop them. From the USA to Turkey, Hong Kong to the UK, police trample on political dissent, brutalise protesters, infiltrate campaigns, coerce female activists into relationships, and shoot to kill. It really doesnt matter if you are a ‘peaceful’ or ‘violent’ protester, to the state and the corporate bosses you are the enemy within. So we need to get our acts together, get back on the streets, get involved with campaigns or start new ones where they are needed, resist the increasing economic & political attacks on us, recognise we have more in common with each other than with the state & bosses, and above all demonstrate in whatever ways we are comfortable with some basic solidarity, support & mutual aid. Capitalism remains in crisis, expects us to pay for it, and in its desperation becomes ever more barbaric, but it only survives whilst we, the enormous majority, allow it to.