Police spied on Hackney School Kids Against The Nazis

Hackney School Kids Against The Nazis, 1978

The Undercover Policing Inquiry into the unethical and illegal practices of spycops is ongoing. It’s well worth keeping an eye on and has revelaed huge amounts of information about police infiltration of radical campaigning groups and political organisations. This can all be harrowing and difficult to keep track of. The fact that the investigation is happening at all – and is being conducted so comprehensively – is a testament to the tenacity and resilience of the victims of spycops.

Inevitably the Inquiry has shed light on police monitoring of and covert involvement in radical movements in Hackney. Previous coverage here is now handily collected together under the spycops tag. The large volume of written and audio testimony means that I can only really skim the surface, but a couple of recent hearings caught my attention.

On 23rd of April the Inquriy heard about the police spying on children. A previous post on this site looked at the inspiring and joyous Hackney School Kids Against The Nazis – children opposing the National Front in the 1970s.

As you can see from the clip below featuring Barrister Kirsten Heaven, it has now emerged that the police spied on these children:

The hearing includes a showing of the Hackney School Kids Against The Nazis newsclip from this website (after some technical difficulties). I was delighted to play a small part in helping the campaign in this way:

This site’s first appearance in court!

(Screenshot from Opening Statement for Tranche One Phase Two on behalf of the co-operating group of non-police non-state core participants.)

That police would routinely spy on children in a democratic society is chilling. But it is even more disturbing that children campaigning against a violently racist and neo-Nazi organisation were treated in this way. The Inquiry has found that about 1000 left wing political organisaitons were spied on, but there is scant information about any far right organisations getting the same treatment from the Special Demonstration Squad. (With the notable exception of one policeman who infiltrated a left wing organisation, which then tasked him with infiltrating a fascist group!)

Even on its own terms, the actual reporting is creepy as fuck in many instances:

One of the features of this phase is the number of reports on school children.142 ‘Gray’ reported on more children than any other officer. Recording the minutiae of their lives and sending them on to MI5. Almost all of these reports have photographs of the children attached. He reports on a 15 year old school-girl, 15 and 13 year old schoolgirls and their parents. In two separate reports he describes the photographed school-boys as “effeminate”. In one report he comments on how much time a school-boy spends at his girlfriend’s house.

The closest ‘Gray’ ever comes to reporting on violence is his note that a school-boy had a fight with his brother.

These children were either the children of Socialist Workers Party members or children who were engaged enough with their society to be part of the School Kids Against the Nazis.

And to justify this he reverts to type and suggests that these children were either subversive or violent. On behalf of Lindsey German and John Rees, who were well aware of the actual activities of School Kids Against the Nazis, we dispute that entirely.

Opening Statement in Tranche 1 Phase 2 on behalf of Richard Chessum and ‘Mary’

This statement goes on to note that whilst the police were spying on innocent school kids, fascist organisations were committing and threatening to commit serious crimes:

In the course of ‘Paul Gray’s’ deployment, Column 88 were threatening to burn down the homes of SWP members. The National Front were attacking Bengalis in Brick Lane, smashing up reggae record shops and graffitiing mosques. They were burning down Indian restaurants and murdering young men like Altab Ali and Ishaque Ali in Whitechapel and Hackney. Whilst they were doing that, Gray and his so called “exemplary” SDS colleagues were writing about what they refer to as “jewish” finance of the Anti-Nazi League, a “negress” activist, an activist with a “large jewish nose” and “coloured hooligans”. Language and views that are beneath contempt.

Instead of investigating the racist firebombing that killed 13 young black people in New Cross, the Special Demonstration Squad were reporting on school children and providing MI5 with copies of Socialist Workers Party baby-sitting rotas.

The full statement that the above is taken from can be read here.

Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance’s summary of the proceedings of April 23rd can be read here.

The Inquiry, as they say, continues.

Police Spies Out of Lives is the organisation representing Spycops victims.

Tom Fowler’s twitter feed is an excellent source of information, including pithy live tweets from the Inquiry itself (with a legally imposed ten minute delay).

Spycops in Hackney & Stoke Newington: new evidence

Some useful insights into the recent Spycops hearings from Keith Flett.

Kmflett's Blog

Spycops in Hackney. New Evidence

The existence of Spycops- undercover police officers who report on and infiltrate left-wing, radical and anti-racist organisations has been happening since at least the 1970s in north-east London. From time to time the role of particular individuals is exposed.

https://hackneyhistory.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/police-spies-in-hackney/

The latest round of hearings in the long running (& on its current timescales never ending) Spycops Inquiry in London which is covering the period of the 1970s and early 1980s has posted on it’s a website a mass of documentation.

One report relates to a meeting on 24th August 1983 between an unnamed officer and DCI David Short of the SDS (Special Demonstration Squad):

The meeting discussed a replacement for Spycop HCN108 who was to be Spycop HCN88 because of what it describes as ‘continuing problems’ in Hackney and Stoke Newington.

Interest was expressed in 50 Rectory Rd N16 the HQ of…

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Do you remember Hackney spycop Tim Spence?

The Undercover Policing Inquiry is continuing to issue cover names of police spies who were engaged in surveillance and infiltration of protest groups.

A further five names were released this week, including HN 88 “Tim Spence”:

Cover name released: “Timothy Spence”. Groups: Stoke Newington and Hackney Defence Campaign, Hackney Campaign Against the Police Bill; 1983 – 1987.

There are several courses of action that will hopefully arise from this, which readers of this blog may be able to help with.

Firstly, if you knew “Tim Spence” or were active in either of the groups mentioned above, please get in touch with the Undercover Research Group. The UCG is run by activists and is completely independent of the Inquiry. Their aim is to create profiles of spycops to enhance activist investigations into this area. They are good people.

Secondly if you have memories, publications or insights into the groups named and the campaigning they did, please get in touch with me and I will add them to this site.

Here’s what we know so far:

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Hackney Campaign Against the Police Bill

The Police Bill was a typically draconian bit of Tory legislation giving the cops more powers so they could better attack people who were the victims of the government’s own policies. Its proposals included:

  • hold people for 96 hours without charge
  • set up random road blocks around an area
  • conduct forcible intimate body searches of detainees
  • use force in taking fingerprints (even of minors)
  • seize confidential information held by doctors, lawyers, journalists

It became the Police Act in 1985, but there was a great deal of resistance to it from 1983 onwards.

The national campaign against the Police Bill was based at 50 Rectory Road, Stoke Newington N16.

Interestingly, the campaign seems to have received funding from Ken Livingstone’s GLC to the tune of £38,000 which lead to questions being asked in parliament.

Some of this money presumably was spent on admin and printing leaflets (some of which can be downloaded as pdfs here).

There was also a conference at Hackney Town Hall in May 1983:

Kill the Police Bill. 1983

Much of the above is based on this blog post by Hackney comrade John Eden, who also mentions the campaign’s own reggae single by Ranking Ann:

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Stoke Newington and Hackney Defence Campaign

Some of the comments of the release of the cover name have confused this campaign group with the Hackney Community Defence Association, which was not formed until July 1988, one year after “Tim Spence” stopped being deployed.

However this leaflet and the commentary makes it clear that the Stoke Newington and Hackney Defence Campaign was involved with defending people who had been arrested during protests about the death of Colin Roach by a gunshot in Stoke Newington Police Station in 1983.

Why this is important

These were legitimate protest groups that campaigned to assist victims of police brutality and also against the potential for police powers to be extended via a change in the law.

That the police would insert a spy into these groups is perhaps not surprising given what we now know. But it is (to put it politely) not a great sign for a supposedly healthy democracy.

Hackney Gazette story on the Colin Roach Centre

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Link to Gazette feature.

Good to see our main local paper covering some radical history and mentioning current struggles around spycops. Hackney Community Defence Association and the Hackney Trades Union Support Unit were both based at the Colin Roach Centre.

Eviction of Lee House squat, 1989

advert from “New Anarchist Review” issue 13, April 1989
News item from Black Flag #192 July 1989

Lee House is grade II listed building at 6-6a Rectory Road, N16.

It was squatted in 1988 and used as a social centre. A previous entry on this blog covered the famous skateboard ramps there – a good example of squatters meeting a social need for local kids.

The bookshop at Lee House was also the origin of Active Distribution – veteran Hackney based distributors of anarchist and punk material, who are still going strong 28 years later. (although they are having some problems with their website today – oops!). Strike magazine has done a good interview with Jon Active about the distro’s history and philosophy.

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Leeds-based anarchopunk fanzine Raising Hell covered the eviction of Lee House in its 21st issue, which seems to have been published in 1990:

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“Many of you will have heard of “LEE HOUSE”, a squatted community centre in Stoke Newington, London, which for nearly a year provided services such as a cheap veggy cafe, book/record shop, community printing, video shows, health care course, exhibitions, skateboard ramp etc.

Well Hackney Council decided to evict it at the end of last August, though recognising it did provide services to the local community, claimed they (social services), had no other empty buildings in the area (bullshit). The place was going to be turned into a day centre for disabled people meant that it was decided to not resist eviction permanently, but to show token resistance as protest against the council’s policy of cutting services.

There was a lot of leaflets distributed around London & the rest of the country asking for help, though by the night before the amount turned up was depressingly small. The building was barricaded, and things prepared to chuck at bailiffs etc. Not quite sure what (if anything?) was decided at the meeting. Next morning only one (top) bailiff turned up, with someone from the council, got a bucket of nasty things emptied over his head, banners went out, leaflets explaining situation given out to passers by & the media contacted. Bailiff went off to clean up after threatening to come back later with lots more.

The councillor hung around looking pissed off & even more pissed off when she got paint chucked at her. Rest of the morning was fairly uneventful. At about 1 o’clock there was no sign of reinforcements so it was decided to go down to Hackney town hall & occupy it. The decorators in the hall next to the balcony were given the afternoon off and the doors blocked up. Banners put out and lots of noise made, it got reports on south east TV and some local newspapers and the pigs got everyone after a couple of hours with no arrests.”

Occupation of Town Hall to protest against the eviction – taken from Hackney Anarchy Week programme

Lee House is currently a council run employment and rehabilitation centre for people with mental health difficulties.

Any more memories, photographs, etc of Lee House’s glorious occupation in the late eighties would be very welcome – leave a comment below or get in touch.

Spycop John Dines aka ‘John Barker’ is rumoured to have been involved with Lee House – the Undercover Research Group is trying to build profiles of spycops, so get in contact with them if you came across him.

Spycops meeting, HCDA and Hackney Trade Union Support Unit publications

HCDA banner at Chats Palace Spycops meeting

HCDA banner at Chats Palace spycops meeting

The recent meeting about spycops at Chats Palace was disturbing and inspiring in turn. Disturbing because of the level of state-sanctioned emotional abuse suffered by activist women – and inspiring because of their dignified and tenacious campaign for justice.

“Alison” (formerly of the Colin Roach Centre) and Helen Steel (formerly of London Greenpeace, McLibel etc) were joined on the platform by Graham Smith (founder member of Hackney Community Defence Association) and Mark Metcalf (formerly of HCDA, Colin Roach Centre, Hackney Trade Union Support Unit etc).

It was good to see the Hackney Community Defence Association banners in action once again (see pic above – “Alison” understandably did not want to be photographed, hence the empty stage).

Even better than that was the diverse cross-section of Hackney radicals who were present – I reacquainted myself with people from my union branch, Hackney Independent, Hackney Anarchy Week, various radical history initiatives and from doing zines in the 1990s.

Attendees were all given a useful HCDA timeline, which I have now added to this site.

The meeting picked up coverage in the Hackney Gazette amongst other places.

The ongoing campaign is ably covered by Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS).

Since the meeting, Mark Metcalf has republished scans of two pamphlets of interest on his blog:

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Hackney Trade Union Support Unit report 1988-1990

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HCDA’s “A peoples’ account of Hackney anti-poll tax demonstration on March 8th 1990”

I’ve not had much time to work on this site recently, but will steal both of those and add them here in due course. In the meantime, do check them out on Mark’s blog alongside his other writing and see what he has to say on twitter.

Also since the meeting, Graham Smith has written an interesting blog entry on Undercover Policing, Democracy and Human Rights which covers HCDA and the forthcoming Pitchford enquiry into undercover policing. Graham can now be found on twitter here.

Meeting on Hackney Spycops – Feb 26th

Previous entries on this site have covered police spies in Hackney and the campaigns seeking justice arising from their actions.

This site also includes quite a bit of material by and about Hackney Community Defence Association.

The campaigns around spycops are an inspiring example of how radical history can be linked to current struggles.

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Meeting organised by Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS)

Big Brother – Who’s Watching You? Mark Jenner meeting

February 26 @ 7:00 pm9:30 pm

Why did undercover cop Mark Jenner infiltrate Hackney campaigns in the 1990s?

The Special Demonstration Squad’s Mark Jenner was deployed using the name Mark Cassidy.

The Undercover Research Group’s extensive profile of Jenner shows the range of issues he spied on – anti-racist campaigns, trade unions, Irish republicanism and Hackney community campaigns. He chaired meetings, wrote articles and instigated action.

Why was he there?

Speakers:

Graham Smith – former secretary of Hackney Community Defence Association, founding member of the Colin Roach Centre

John McDonnell MP – shadow chancellor and social justice campaigner

Female speaker from Police Spies Out of Lives who was affected by undercover policing in Hackney

Mark Metcalf – founder member of the Colin Roach Centre, NUJ member, editor of the Unite Rebel Road and book of the month projects

Friday 26 February
Doors open 7pm for prompt 7.30 start

Venue:

42-44 Brooksby’s Walk, London E9 6DF

0208 533 0227

http://www.chatspalace.co.uk/

Background:

Mark Metcalf wrote There Is No Way Of Knowing How Much Damage Jenner Caused shortly after Jenner was exposed.

“Alison”, an activist who was deceived into a five year co-habiting relationship with Jenner, gave this testimony to parliament and told her story to Newsnight in 2014.

Hackney Spycops – profiles and campaigns

A previous entry on this site summarised the cases of three Spycops known to have been active in Hackney from the mid eighties until the late nineties.

This is one example of how radical history can intersect with current activism – something I hope this blog can assist with in a small way.

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The Undercover Research Group is compiling profiles on all known Spycops and would like input from people who knew them:

Mark Jenner (aka Mark Cassidy)

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Bob Lambert (aka Bob Robinson)

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and John Dines (aka John Barker – not to be confused of the entirely different John Barker of Stoke Newington 8 infamy). (Profile page to follow).

These profiles are part of wider research portal about Spycops.

Anyone who knew these men is encouraged to get in touch with the Undercover Research Group. Specific information is request on:

  • what they were involved in
  • what events and actions they took part in
  • what their behaviour was and whether it was different on different
    occasions.

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Sack Bob Lambert

Islington Against Police Spies is campaigning to have police spy Bob Lambert removed from his post at London Metropolitan University, including regular pickets, media coverage etc.

You can support the campaign by joining the pickets and raising the issue directly with the University.

Police Spies Out of Lives continue to support the legal action by eight women deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers who were infiltrating environmental and social justice campaign groups.

They are encouraging people to sign their statement and support the campaign as well as making donations towards legal costs.

Chas from Flowers In The Dustbin on Hackney Community Defence Association and spycops

Originally posted on Facebook on 25th June 2013

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From Chas :

I was on TV again today but this time regarding something more important than my book – the infiltration by an undercover police officer of Hackney Community Defence Association – for whom I was a volunteer 20 years ago – and other political campaigns in Hackney. I was briefly on BBC London news calling for a public inquiry into the activities of special branch at the time. I’m not complaining – it’s good to get any coverage for the issue – but its in the nature of these things that only a tiny portion of what you say gets used – so here’s what I wanted to say:

Hackney Community Defence Association was a voluntary organisation – a self help group for the victim of police crime. We exposed corruption (in particular Stoke Newington drug squad), took up cases of people framed by police officers and people beaten up by police officers. Our position was not anti police, it was that police officers should not be allowed to get away with criminal activity. I don’t think all coppers are bastards nor do I think there is a contradiction between campaigning against police crime and looking to the police to tackle crime – quite the opposite. There are brave police kind police , police who deal with absolute monsters, idiots and scum. I played a minor part in bringing to justice some corrupt and/or violent police officers and helping some innocent people get off. I have also caught a burglar, intervened to prevent a mugging, given evidence against another mugger and against someone guilty of assault.

I joined HCDA because I was wrongly arrested and falsely accused by two members of the TSG (riot police) and it was thanks to HCDA that I was able to find two witnesses for my defence and thanks to their support that I stood up to the advice of my barrister (who wanted me to lie) and told the truth in court and was acquitted. For four years (1990-4) I helped other people in a similar position.

Among the cases I recall were an arthritic woman thrown in the back of a police van and racially abused; a couple assaulted in Stoke Newington police station when they went to complain about an assault by police they had witnessed; a man beaten on the steps of his home in front of the editor of ITV’s London news programme and a vicar who both gave evidence in his defence (he was convicted as I recall of attacking the police even though he had been holding a baby at the time, but I may be misremembering) a bricklayer unable to work after a beating from police, who defied even our advice to get his day in court and won his case; a group of squatters systematically tortured in Stoke Newington police station after being (in most cases) wrongly arrested – this led to a police officer being jailed for assault (largely through the efforts of decent police disgusted by his actions), a police officer who made 2 grand a week selling crack; a police officer arrested driving a lorry load of weed through customs; police officers running protection rackets in Turkish gambling clubs.

Those are the ones that stand out in my mind. I saw bruised and beaten and distraught people given the support they needed to fight back and in many cases win. And I also saw people lose and be denied justice over and over again until all that was left was the sympathy of people who understood what they had been through. It’s all a long time ago now and I have not been involved in any of that for years.

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Our office was burgled and only the computer hard drives were taken (we had a database of discredited officers) – on the wall they wrote ‘Hard Luck Matey’. We accused special branch but nobody listened. After I left HCDA to become an academic, a police officer joined the organisation undercover – he had access to confidential papers in legal cases in which the police were accused of crimes/misconduct; he became involved in running both campaigns for justice and a legitimate trade union attempt to reduce deaths of workers in the buildings industry. Merely by being involved he undermined those campaigns, I suspect deliberately but perhaps inadvertently as he tried to maintain his cover. He was centrally involved in a campaign to overturn the conviction of a man accused of killing his cell mate in a police station. That man complained of being spied on on several occasions to me. I thought he was paranoid. I was wrong.

Police Spy Mark Jenner

Police Spy Mark Jenner

The undercover officer began a long-term relationship with one of my former colleagues who had no idea while he shared her bed that she was simply being used to bolster his cover. She wanted kids. He wasn’t up for it. A former colleague of mine told me he was being spied on and met me and some others in Clissold Park to discuss it because he thought his home was being bugged. I thought he was cracking up. At the end of the meeting as I got up to leave I saw a woman behind him taking a photo of her companion with me my friend and the rest of the group obviously in shot. I didn’t mention anything because I didn’t want to fuel his paranoia. Now I feel stupid and I wonder where that photo is.

HCDA was not trying to overthrow the state; it was not involved in criminal activity. It was an entirely legitimate organisation. What Special Branch did to us was particularly wrong because it was simply a police force spying on some of its most effective critics – what possible crime did they think they were preventing? But we weren’t the only ones with cause to complain.

The recent revelation of what Special Branch did to us and to many others are symptomatic of a society which is utterly corrupt. These actions are vile (in particular I think the sexual activity of these people amounts to rape – it’s certainly non consensual); they are illegal; they make a mockery of justice; they demonstrate a complete lack of democratic accountability; they are overtly political in a manner that is unacceptable for a police force in a democracy. They are a hugely disproportionate way of dealing with groups that were not involved in serious crime (if they were involved in crime at all). AND they are operationally dubious: these undercover officers tended to ‘make themselves useful’ to their targets (one of them drafted the McLibel leaflet, others are accused of criminal actions) they provided vans and expertise, they seem to have advocated more extreme acts in several cases, in order to gain credibility.

But the people we associate with influence our ideas and actions, so at what point could you rule out the possibility that a particular member of a group was taking part in an action because they had spent 4 years in the company of someone consistently trying to appear more radical and more committed? Incitement and entrapment can be more subtle than simply saying ‘lets go out and burn down a bank’.

If Special Branch are not properly held to account for all this we deserve to live in a dictatorship.

What am I asking for? – a public inquiry – preferably one in which the victims of undercover policing are involved – we have a long track record of successful investigation – we aren’t stupid, we are lawyers, academics, journalists etc now – we have the expertise and the experience to uncover the truth and only we can be trusted to do so. The then Met commissioner claims ignorance – all the more reason for a public inquiry.

What am I asking for – share this, quote this, read about what has happened. Don’t let anyone tell you it is over and could not happen again and take every opportunity to say the truth should come out.

The BBC described me as a former activist today. Not very edifying is it?

More info:

Police Spies Out of Lives campaign

Flowers In The Dustbin website

Hackney Community Defence Association info on this site.

(Recollections of the group from other people who were involved in HCDA are also welcome, as are additional documents – see the Wanted page for more info)

Police Spies in Hackney

Guardian journalists Rob Evans and Paul Lewis are publishing a book on police infiltrators in activist movements. The book has been previewed in the Guardian and in a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary which aired last night.

The Dispatches programme is disturbing viewing. Allegations include infiltrating the campaign for justice for Stephen Lawrence and a number of other entirely legal protest groups.

Even more seriously, a number of the police spies have deceptively involved themselves in relationships with activists (and one non-activist) as part of their cover. Some of them even fathered children with their partners before disappearing when an infiltration was finished.

Bristle has published a useful Spycop Timeline.

The radical history of Hackney has lead to police spies being active in the Borough.

In 1984 Bob Lambert (AKA ‘Bob Robinson’) was infiltrating animal rights groups. He met ‘Charlotte’ outside Hackney Town Hall and began a relationship with her. The couple went on to have a child together, before Lambert disappeared.

In 1987 John Dines (AKA ‘John Barker’) was sent to Hackney to infiltrate activist groups including London Greenpeace. He eventually embarked on a fraudulent relationship with Helen Steel of London Greenpeace who was later one of the McLibel defendants. (See a recent statement here on the police infiltration of London Greenpeace from Dave Morris, the other McLibel defendant).

I have previously written about Mark Jenner (AKA ‘Mark Cassidy’) and his 1990s infiltration of the Hackney Community Defence Association and the Colin Roach Centre. Details of his fraudulent relationship with ‘Alison’ have now been published.

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The Police Spies Out of Lives group are

“supporting the legal action by eight women deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers who were infiltrating environmental and social justice campaign groups.

As part of our support, we are exposing the immoral and unjustified practice of undercover relationships, and the institutional prejudices which have led to the abuse. We are calling for an unequivocal end to the practice, a full inquiry into the past, and changes to prevent it ever happening again.”

The group is seeking financial and other support.