Archive for the ‘Hillsborough’ Category

Why #SPYCOPS matters

June 27, 2018

DSCN1141

The Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS) has been in the news a lot in the past few weeks, as a result of the high street cosmetic chain Lush’s highlighting of this issue. The Lush window display originally featured a montage of half a uniformed police officer and half the same person in plain clothes, with the headline “PAID TO LIE”, underneath which some fake police tape said “POLICE HAVE CROSSED A LINE”. It encouraged people to tweet support for victims of #SPYCOPS, innocent people who were “SPIED ON FOR TAKING A STAND”.

This display was later changed, as a result of a backlash from the UK cop humour site, with Lush staff being threatened and harassed. The Lush facebook group (which previously had an 80% approval rating) was targeted, with a slew of negative reviews and threats to boycott the company. Ironically, takings at Lush were actually up 13% during the campaign – brandwatch has done an interesting analysis, explaining that Lush’s customer base and the visitors to the police website were completely different, and Lush’s customers overhelmingly approved of the campaign.

The police units concerned operated since 1968 until at least 2010 and may well still be operating under a different guise today. The tactics which were employed included using the names of dead people as cover identities, without knowledge of the families concerned; having non-consensual sex with victims and in some cases even having children with their targets.

The full extent of the police operation is unknown, but at least 1,000 groups were infiltrated in this way. The only thing all of them have in common is that they are all left wing! Environmental campaigners, trade unionists, socialists, the Stephen Lawrence family, animal rights campaigners all found themselves targeted by the state, including members of the Socialist Party, of which I am a member.

Under pressure, Theresa May began a public enquiry in 2015, but this is not expected to give any answers until 2023, officers have been granted anonymity, and the enquiry does not cover Scotland. There is a petition for full details to be released and for a fair and transparent enquiry, with justice for the victims – https://www.change.org/p/sajid-javid-support-victims-of-spycops-get-access-to-justice

#SPYCOPS matters because we are supposed to live in a democratic country, with freedom of speech, where we have the right to join a trade union and the right to criticise the government. It matters because we need to stand up for the environment, because we need democratic, fighting trade unions to improve our working conditions and to fight against privatisation and casualisation of jobs. It matters because there are victims up and down the country, mostly women, who were left bereft as the men they thought of as their partners led double lives. It matters because the police’s record on investigations is abysmal – e.g. Orgreave, Hillsborough, Jean Charles De Menezes, Stephen Lawrence . . . It matters because police resources were wasted in deceiving innocent protestors rather than targeting criminals.

To read more about the campaign visit campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com/

Advertisements

Hillsborough and Grenfell

August 28, 2017

On June 14th, 1989, Liverpool were set to play Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final, which took place at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. Liverpool were allocated less tickets than Nottingham Forest, despite having more supporters. The police rejected a request from the Football Association to allow more tickets to Liverpool fans.

As a result, 24,000  Liverpool fans were squeezed into the Leppings Lane end of the stadium (before all-seater stadia, fans were corralled onto terraces, and pens were employed to keep rival supporters from clashing with each other). Congestion in getting to the ground meant that many Liverpool fans were delayed in arriving. A further request to postpone the start of the match was denied, and instead 2,000 football fans were herded into an already full “pens”. The people there could not leave the pen, as there was only one exit door, which was locked. Before the match started fans were shouting to the police to open the gate, their demands were ignored. The police’s reaction was to assume that there was crowd trouble.

The match was recorded on television by eight BBC cameras, but the resulting footage was considered “too distressing” to broadcast. The game started but lasted just seven minutes before it was halted. The coroner’s report showed that some fans had already succumbed to injuries even before kick off. The Superintendent in charge of the game, David Duckenfield, who was inexperienced in managing such a major football game, tried to claim that ticketless Liverpool supporters had broken into one of the gates and stormed the pitch – this was a lie. A major incident plan should have been put in place immediately, allowing ambulances to enter the pitch. Police officers and stewards should have been giving first aid, instead of forming a cordon to prevent a pitch invasion, as they initially saw it. In the event, only three ambulances were allowed onto the pitch despite dozens of ambulances being parked outside – the first did not arrive until 3.15pm, a quarter an hour after kick-off.

A nearby gymnasium was used as a makeshift holding area, and alcohol tests were carried out on all the bodies at the request of the police, including children, who made up many of those who tragically lost their lives. The purpose of this was to try to pin the blame on Liverpool fans for the disaster. The accusations of the police were later supported by the right-wing tabloid press – The Sun published a disgraceful headline “The Truth”, claiming that police officers were urinated on, that fans pickpocketed victims and attacked a police officer who was giving the kiss of life. In reality, it was fans who were administering first aid, carrying away the injured on makeshift stretchers made from advertising hoardings. The police were determined to try to shift the blame away from themselves and on to “drunken, ticketless Liverpool supporters”, for which they “had to find evidence that this was the case”. No proper emergency response ever happened. Those who tried to tell the real truth were ignored, slapped down or browbeaten. One doctor who was in the crowd had his reputation attacked and was accused of publicity seeking, in an attempt to discredit him or shut him up.

Senior police officers also falsified the evidence of their colleagues – police were not told to write down witness statements in the normal way, but to put their recollections of the incident down on plain paper, which was then redacted. The Taylor enquiry was set up, but in such a way that one police force was investigating another, and the South Yorkshire Police Force could take its own officers’ statements. Criticisms of the policing operation, such as, “It might have been better to direct fans into flank areas which were not full” and “Why were the sliding doors at the back of the tunnel not closed when those sections of the ground were full?” were censored, but any criticisms of the fans were left in. Despite these attempts at whitewashing, the Taylor Report still found that the main cause of overcrowding was due to the failure of police control. Margaret Thatcher made a handwritten note: “What do we mean by ‘welcoming the broad thrust of the report’? The broad thrust is devastating criticism of the police. Is that for us to welcome?”

Prosecutions were expected to follow, but then the chauffeur of the Chief Constable and the Law Lord claimed that they were determined to blame the police force. Again, this was a lie, but it ensured that no criminal charges were brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Subsequently, calls for an independent inquiry were raised by families of the 96 victims of the disaster. The then Prime Minister, Tony Blair scribbled “Why what is the point?” on a paper requesting a review of the evidence.

Is it a coincidence that it was Liverpool the right tried to blame, in the aftermath of the influence of the 47 Liverpool Councillors who resisted Thatcher’s government and wrested millions of pounds out the Iron Lady for the city, who built 5,000 council houses, leisure centres and nurseries?

The need for public housing leads on to a more recent disaster, also entirely preventable, the Grenfell Tower fire. Cladding was put on the ageing tower block to improve the view of the area for the gentrified parts of Kensington and Chelsea. The tower blocks are home to a very impoverished community, in the middle of one of the richest parts of London, where billionaires buy empty properties as an investment.

The fire began with a faulty fridge on the fourth floor. the advice given was for people to remain in their rooms, but the heat spread the fire to the exterior cladding and rapidly the whole building became engulfed in flames. A tenants’ group had previously warned that the cladding was unfit for purpose and dangerous, yet this warning was ignored.

Thatcher’s right to buy policy, introduced in 1980, allowed tenants to buy their own council homes at a discount. Finance to local authorities for building council homes was cut, the responsibility being passed to housing associations and private landlords. The result has been a return to Dickensian housing standards, overcrowding and slum landlordism. Homebuilding has steadily fallen. 171,000 homes were built in 2015, of which just 2,700 were built by local authorities. As demand has outstripped supply, property prices and rents have soared, along with the problem of homelessness. No-one took the place of local government in providing housing.

Cost-cutting on projects has become the norm, as a direct result of her policies – the combustible cladding used saved just £300,000 from the cost of refurbishing the Grenfell tower, and there was little discussion of the implications for the safety of residents. A sprinkler system would have saved lives; a revision of evacuation procedures following the cladding being installed would have saved lives; retaining three nearby fire stations, which were closed by Boris Johnson, the former Mayor of London (out of 10 across the city, with the loss of 600 firefighters’ jobs) would also have saved lives.

A true, official death toll of Grenfell may not be released until 2018. Millions of pounds of working-class people’s money, collected for the residents have still to be distributed to those in need.

We cannot have another cover-up, as happened in the 28 years it took for those responsible for Grenfell to be brought to justice, with David Duckenfield being charged with manslaughter and five others being charged with perverting the course of justice and lying about the incident. Yet there signs that this may already be happening. Firefighters who attended the incident were banned from speaking to the media about the true death toll. We must demand an independent inquiry, led by trade unions and residents, which would look into the causes of the disaster and expose the crimes that were committed in the interests of making cuts and protecting profits.

(Speech given to Leicester Socialist Party branch meeting Saturday 26th August 2017).

A generation of trade unionists will dance on Thatcher’s grave

November 20, 2012

Thatcher, Thatcher, the milk snatcher

1979 – the start of the decline.

1980 – cuts, job losses, all things weighty.

1981 – Brixton riots, not much fun.

1982 – Falklands, jingoism makes me spew.

1983 – Another term of misery.

1984 – struggles and strikes keep the wolf from the door.

1985 – Liverpool fights, our hopes kept alive.

1986 – Wapping falls, we’re in a fix.

1987 – Militant still fighting, no quarter given.

1988 – British Steel sold off, not part of the state.

1989 – Can’t Pay Won’t Pay holds the line.

1990 – Mass non-payment breaks the Iron Lady.

All the news that’s fit to print

August 7, 2011

All the news that’s fit to print

The Soaraway Sun scoops stars’ secrets,

purveys pounds to purchase policemen,

delves into dens of depravity,

shovels shit on socialist Sheridan,

lies that Liverpudlians are looting layabouts.

Media mogul Murdoch mouths abject apologies, accuses all.

Insipid, ignorant, insouciant, infantile.

Hypocritically hedging his bets, he

opportunistically observes the ordure;

jettisons journalists’ jobs

at naughty News of the World.

Cameron and Coulson caught in crossfire of corruption,

bungling Brooks banged behind bars.

Remorsefully reminisces, the red- haired hack:

Lolling around with lots of lovely lolly LOL!

Hacking on horseback and hacking on telephones,

Champagne-chugging Christmases with Clarkson and Coulson in flipping Chipping Norton.

——————————————————————————————————-

You can read more of my poetry in ‘Little Red Poetry’: all proceeds go to help build an alternative political party to fight cutbacks and privatisation. Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.