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Senior police officer warns of “summer of rage”

Niall Green | 27.02.2009 20:32 | G20 London Summit | Repression

A senior officer in London's Metropolitan Police has issued a public warning that Britain could experience a wave of demonstrations and direct-action protests this year as a result of the economic crisis.

Superintendent David Hartshorn, head of the Metropolitan Police's public order branch, told the Guardian newspaper that many "middle class" people who had never joined a demonstration could be radicalised, creating "potentially violent mass protests."

Hartshorn claimed that UK intelligence reports point to "known activists" who are "good at motivating people," working to foment protests. Pointing to the inner-city riots in Britain in the 1980s, he claimed that activists today are "intent on coming on to the street to create public disorder." Hartshorn warned that those who lost homes, savings or jobs as a result of the economic crisis might become "foot soldiers" in potentially violent mass demonstrations.

Based on police and security service monitoring of activists' websites, Hartshorn suggested that banks, especially those bailed-out by the government, that still pay large bonuses to executives had become "viable targets" for protesters. Other financial companies and multinational companies associated with the economic crisis were also likely to be hit. He warned that energy companies would be targeted by "hardcore" green groups, drawing on public concerns for the environment:

"All you've got to do then is link in with the environmentalists, and look at the oil companies. They're seen to be turning over billions of pounds profit in issues that are seen to be against the environment."

He was clear that police are preparing to intervene more forcefully in repressing demonstrations. The likelihood of angry mass protests meant that where police previously "would possibly look at certain events and say, ‘yes there'll be a lot of people there, there'll be a lot of banner waving, but generally it will be peaceful,' [now] we have to make sure these elements don't come out and hijack that event and turn that into disorder."

"Obviously the downturn in the economy, unemployment, repossessions, changes that. Suddenly there is the opportunity for people to mass protest," he said. According to the Guardian, Hartshorn believed that recent demonstrations had shown that more people were "intent on coming on to the streets to create public disorder."

In particular, Hartshorn identified the April meeting in London of leaders of the G20 group of major economies as a rallying point for these "known activists." "We've got G20 coming and I think that is being advertised on some of the sites as the highlight of what they see as a ‘summer of rage,' " he said.

Several groups involved in recent protests have complained that police had adopted a more confrontational approach than usual, especially at the large demonstrations against the Israeli assault on Gaza in January.

"[E]xtreme rightwing and extreme leftwing" groups would seek to "use the fact that people are out of jobs," said Hartshorn.

He singled out individuals from the small fascist organisation Combat 18, saying: "They are using the fact that there's been lots of talk about eastern European people coming in and taking jobs on the [London 2012] Olympic sites. They're using those types of arguments to look at getting support."

The ability of fascist groups to carry out such initiatives is made possible by the efforts of the trade unions to divert workers' anger at job losses and pay cuts into the blind alley of economic protectionism, as demonstrated during the "British jobs for British workers" campaign of the Unite and GMB unions at oil refineries and power stations.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the British establishment fears not the provocations of such groups, but the re-emergence of a militant leftward movement of workers.

Hartshorn told the Guardian: "Potentially there will be more industrial actions.... History shows that some of those disputes—Wapping [1986 printers' strike], the [1984/1985] miners' strike—have caused great tensions in the community and the police have had difficult times policing and maintaining law and order."

Writing of the senior police officer's warning, James Slack, Home Affairs editor of the right-wing Daily Mail, commented, "Thousands of workers demonstrated in Dublin on Saturday. Police fear the worsening economic situation will lead to mass street protests in the UK.

"Many will consider such a scenario unlikely, or point out this has not been the ‘British way' over the past two decades.... But can we really be so sure? The public's rage with the banks and the Government is growing by the day."

There have been large demonstrations across Europe in response to the economic crisis. In Greece, youth rioted and held demonstrations across the country for several days in protest against police brutality and poverty wages. Greek farmers recently also carried out road blocks as a protest against falling agricultural prices. This month, more than a million workers took part in a strike in France against the pro-business policies of President Nicolas Sarkozy, while 120,000 marched on the streets of Dublin in Ireland over rising unemployment and increased pension contributions. In Iceland, whose economy was virtually bankrupted by the financial crisis, there were sustained demonstrations calling for the government to resign, which were met with tear gas from riot police.
Secret police unit

Just days before Hartshorn's statements, news leaked that a new secret police intelligence unit has been established to spy on political and activist groups.

The Confidential Intelligence Unit (CIU) is to operate across the UK, carrying out surveillance and running informers on "domestic extremists." CIU is part of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), established in 1999.

The new unit will also work with the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit, a police operation that, according to its web site, "promotes a coordinated response to domestic extremism by providing tactical advice to the police service, and information and guidance to industry and government."

An alleged early operation for the CIU was the infiltration of groups involved in the January demonstration in London against Israel's war on Gaza. According to the Mail on Sunday newspaper, the CIU "aims to identify the ring-leaders behind violent demonstrations such as the recent anti-Israel protests in London, and to infiltrate neo-Nazi groups, animal liberation groups and organisations behind unlawful industrial action such as secondary picketing."

The unit is reputed to have a remit similar to that of the secretive domestic spying agency MI5, including "counter subversion." During the Cold War, MI5 was initially associated with counter-espionage operations against Soviet spies and infiltration of the Communist Party. But it later shifted its focus to the various left groups associated with Trotskyism, including operations in the 1970s and 1980s against the Workers Revolutionary Party, then the British section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.

Media reports assert that MI5 has largely moved its focus from left-wing activities to anti-Islamic terrorist operations over the past decade. This has left the CIU with the task of stepping in to spy on an anticipated new generation of domestic targets.

An internal police job advertisement for the head post in the unit, obtained by the Mail on Sunday, gives a taste of the powers the CIU will wield. According to the paper:

"The advert says the unit will work closely with Government departments, university authorities and private sector companies to ‘remove the threat of criminality and public disorder that arises from domestic extremism.'

"The CIU will also use legal proceedings to prevent details of its operations being made public."

It is likely that the CIU will work on university campuses with a group established in 2006 by the Association of University Chief Security Officers to tackle "Islamic fundamentalism." The universities group includes officials from the Home Office's counter-terrorism department and the NPOIU. At the time, the Department for Education had prepared plans for university staff to monitor "Asian-looking" and Muslim students and claimed that universities were "a fertile recruiting ground for students."

Niall Green
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Hide the following 5 comments

Old news

27.02.2009 21:20

This is really old news. The police are monitoring newswires such as imc and this has possibly been posted to draw a response. Ignore it.


keep it peaceful

27.02.2009 23:04

keep it peaceful folks -if at all possible. This is part of the bigger picture , they want us to riot to implement tougher restrictions on our liberties . Peace si

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Another Autumn of apoplexy

28.02.2009 01:29

I posted my take on this as a comment to an another article within the past week. It is obviously a criminal attempt to stir up violence by a serving police officer that should be prosecuted if the law if that means anything. But the law is just for the poor so ignore it. Policing is one growth employer at times like this, along with undertakers etc.

On the other hand, it is quite true for anyone who remembers the last big recession (1980s) or depression (1930s) and that is where we are all going. When people starve there is violence because hunger is as powerfully motivating as any other sort of pain/torture.

'If you don't steal to feed your family and friends then you are a fuckwit'. George Bernard Shaw said something like that but we all knew that anyway. If you dig your own grave then you are a fuckwit, at least according to Ward Churchill, again a paraphrase.

Things are likely to get even more stressed, if you choose to be stressed but bear in mind the British nations were far too rich to begin with due to imperial explotation, poverty here is relative prosperity elsewhere. Don't let that grind you down, do't let it depress you, but also don't let it stop you fighting for genuine equality. There are still rich getting richer around. They aren't born bullet-proofed, yet.

Slum Cat Trillionaire

Oh let them play...

28.02.2009 02:06

Big woo, a new police force, everyone knows the police don't know their head from their toes, the more police forces are out there the more they will get in each other's way, one provoke the other calms, one infiltrate the other beat him up... the more different forces are there the more they will fuck up and the more we will expose them!
They have infiltrated us, this isn't new they play a horrific game with no rules, while we have morality to guide us they have none, some will use all the dirty tricks in the books, while others will play by the rules.
The cops, and I use this term very generally to describe both the police, the armies, the secret services, international spy agencies and the rest will resort to tactics of personal humiliation, to subverted torture and rape, to fucking with us on every level, but this has been going on for a while, anyone who has been in the deep end of political activism can testify this is happening, and yes it's fucking scary, but one thing they won't do is stop us, and violence, well it depends entirely on them, if they stay out of our way they will not get hurt when the shit hits the fan! fuck keeping it peaceful they protect to much violence to resist peacefully always, just keep it smart and we'll beat them!
There is time for violence, there is time for destruction, there is time for rioting and when it comes there is nothing they can do! we'll hospitalise a few more if we must!

by the way I am pretty sure i am one of those people he was talking about :)

Are you scared???? ha!

self-fulfilling prophecy

01.03.2009 21:02

Headlines like this in the (Express?) today are brilliant news for us, because they become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Now they have put the idea into people's heads it is far more likely to happen.

We need to make sure the inevitable tide of hatred towards the banks and other big institutions is primarily from a left/anarchist stance and that the right-wing don't use it to create racial and xenophobic division.

Those greedy rich fuckers are getting billions for their banks, and millions for themselves personally, from taxpayers money, for messing up their own business. If any normal small person's business fails because of their own incompetence they won't get a free government handout to keep them going.

Roll on the destruction of the banking establishment!