Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Harold Wilson backed weird smears, leaned on Press over 1968 protests

Feature - The art of deception;
The sinister pro-war tactics of Wilson's Labour government in 1968

(originally published
Morning Star
July 25, 2008 Friday)
Solomon Hughes

At the risk of boring readers into the ground, here is another look at how the government reacted to British anti-Vietnam war protests in 1968.
Another inch-thick dossier of papers from the Home Office fell through my letterbox, revealing more incredibly thick behaviour by the Establishment. The way they were then gives a warning about the way they are now.
In 1968, a Labour government that was much more left-wing than Brown's gang responded to protests with paranoia, dishonesty and wild talk of bomb plots.
Protests against the Vietnam war were bigger and more raucous than any London demos for over 30 years. They were part of an international wave of rebellion and so had bigger political ambitions than previous protests and were ambitions that rejuvenated the left.
But the protests still only involved tens of thousands of people and did not threaten the state. They still seemed to scare them to the edge of madness.
As I revealed last month, the Labour home secretary and defence minister actually discussed using troops to hold the demonstrators back. Thankfully, they decided against sending in the army, so they turned to their second defence - satire.
Sir Burke Trend co-ordinated the government's defence against the dangerous long-haired barbarians of the New Left. I know that his name sounds made up, but Sir Burke was real - he was cabinet secretary and an important Establishment figure.
He pulled together a joint committee of the prime minister, with the foreign, home, education and Scottish secretaries, on the "state of student unrest." Under Trend's guidance, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan and all agreed that the Information Research Department (IRD), a propaganda unit close to MI6, should "put together and circulate among students material which would help put student organisations on their guard against the ill-disposed. This, I took it, would be circulated anonymously."
Another cabinet office note for a September 12 joint ministers' meeting says that the government wanted to "give fullest support to the NUS (National Union of Students) as an organisation," so "canalising the current mood of protest" away from the militants.
To this end, IRD officials were "preparing a fairly light-hearted, satirical leaflet for distribution by the National Union of Students in time for the opening of the new term, aimed particularly at the sceptical first-year student" to try to discredit the militants.
At one level, this was a classic propaganda operation. Lesson one of "information management" says get a third party to deliver your message. The cabinet committee minutes say: "It would be counterproductive for the government to be seen to be too closely involved in student affairs, and the means by which the government can influence student opinion are clearly limited."
However, it seems that somebody in the NUS was willing to act as the government's patsy and deliver their message. It is also clearly potty. Sir Burke's government satire committee against the reds sounds like a Monty Python sketch.
The government's propaganda campaign was ridiculous but also sinister. The Information Research Department was a nasty bunch. It also created dossiers warning vice-chancellors about dangerous "red" students.
They were happy to use the most alarming smears. One vicious dossier says that anti-war protesters "have been buying small arms" and making "Molotov cocktails."
The government's attempts to beat protests with spoofs and send-ups failed, but they did have other propaganda weapons. They leaned hard on the media.
Home secretary Callaghan called in chairman of the BBC governors Lord Hill before a demo to "put the view that, on these occasions, television cameras were not neutral and contributed to the atmosphere."
Callaghan told the BBC boss that "the police needed support in all these matters. They would feel particularly strongly if television cameras showed some momentary lapse of retaliation on the part of a police officer, but not the deliberate violence which provoked it."
Callaghan wanted the BBC to get behind the police's "momentary lapses" with truncheon and boot. Lord Hill jumped into line, declaring that he "accepted that the BBC had a duty to society as well as a duty to report the news and he entirely agreed with the home secretary's approach. He said that the matter could be confidently left to him to deal with."
Oily Lord Hill promised to do all this behind the scenes, saying "that it was nevertheless a delicate point to put over, any overt movement on his part would almost certainly get publicity and therefore be counterproductive. He mentioned that Mr John Crawley, the news and current affairs editor of the BBC, was entirely in his confidence on these matters and could be approached with absolute safety by the home secretary."
Callaghan also called in the 10 chairmen of the top newspapers for a meeting at which he insisted that "television and newspaper cameras were not neutral," reminding the Fleet Street bosses that "there was a feeling among the police that the published photographs tended to concentrate on some retaliation by a police officer, rather than on the blow by a demonstrator which provoked a police officer."
Where the BBC were oily, the newspapermen were loudly onside. One chairman asked if their staff could chase demonstrators and whether the courts were tough enough on protesters.
In 1968, a Labour government raised the threat of terrorism by protesters, secretly circulating stories that were the basis of lurid headlines like "Yard in terror bombs hunt."
They used these stories to push a willing media away from "neutral" reporting, encouraging them to get behind police "retaliation."
The lesson is that we should think twice when the government says: "Trust us" about security. Sometimes, when they feel threatened and when they get too carried away in their cabinet committees, they actually go a little bit mad.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Police Files named Angry Brigade suspect as Police Informant

Inside the Angry Brigade
Solomon Hughes
First Published -Morning Star
July 19, 2012 Thursday

In an era when mass protest and activism is again on the increase it's salutary to remember the police's habit of infiltrating rebellious groups. Papers I've received under the Freedom of Information Act show that one of the leading suspects named by police investigating the Angry Brigade - Britain's bomb-planting urban guerillas of the 1970s - was in fact a police informant. Gerry Osner was named as an Angry Brigade suspect in 1972, but police documents from 1968 say he was their informant inside the anti-Vietnam war movement. The Angry Brigade bombing campaign began in 1970. The "angries" planted bombs in what their communiques called "a planned series of attacks on capitalist and government property."
Between 1970 and 1972 their bomb targets included the homes of government ministers and Ford executives. Their communiques, with the help of a "John Bull" printing set, announced that "we have started to fight back and the war will be won by the organised working class, with bombs." They also claimed that "organised militant struggle and organised terrorism go side by side." The late 1960s and early 1970s saw a massive international rise in political and industrial struggle, including the anti-Vietnam protests and the 1968 French general strike. The Angry Brigade were part of a small but significant move towards terrorism on the fringes of this wave. Unlike the Italian Red Brigades or Germany's Baader-Meinhof group, the Angry Brigade didn't kill anyone. Its bombs were designed to destroy property and create spectacles, not to take lives. But they certainly played with bloodthirsty ideas - promising that "pig blood will flow in the streets" and claiming to be "the man or woman sitting next to you. They have guns in their pockets and anger in their minds." A concerted police operation led to the arrest and trial of people accused of the Angry Brigade attacks in 1971 and 1972. The police swoops gathered up both people found to be linked to the bombings and people who were innocent of any crime. Those arrested included Stuart Christie, who had been freed from a Spanish prison by an international campaign in 1967. Most of those arrested came from a "new left" background, but Christie was a Scottish anarchist. He travelled to Spain in 1964 to help his Spanish comrades in a plan to kill the country's dictator Francisco Franco. The attempt to assassinate the fascist leader failed and Christie was jailed for 20 years. After he was freed by the international campaign, Christie lived in London under fairly regular police surveillance. In December 1972, shortly after the trial of the Stoke Newington Eight led to some convictions and some acquittals, the police announced they were seeking "two people who we are most anxious to interview." Deputy assistant commissioner Ernest Bond said they were looking for "Gerry Osner and Miss Sarah Poulikakou" in connection with the bombings. Bond said they were "living abroad," adding that he had asked "Special Branch men in the Republic of Ireland" for help. Christie - who as the trial showed was not an Angry Brigade member, but did know many of those involved - told me he believed Osner was part of the Stoke Newington Eight Defence Campaign set up to aid the defendants, but was not likely to have taken part in Angry Brigade actions. But the document in a bundle of papers I received shows that Osner was an informant. The papers show that the authorities were genuinely very alarmed by the large, angry protests at the US embassy against the Vietnam war and the related growth of the new left. Panicked reactions included mobilising a "bomb squad" lest protesters use explosives and seriously considering, though ultimately rejecting, the mobilisation of troops to "contain" demonstrators. They also leaned on the BBC and newspaper editors to be less sympathetic to marchers. One paper from senior Home Office official F W Merifield refers to a Special Branch report. It says: "Such reports we have on extreme violence come from sources like Jeremy Osner, a student on whom a HOW is being submitted, and are not very credible. Nonetheless there is enough wild talk to give the police considerable cause for concern." "Jeremy" is almost certainly a mis-spelling of Gerry. His name is correctly cited when he was identified as among the 45 "leaders of the movement" in another Special Branch paper. An "HOW" is probably a Home Office Warrant allowing police to intercept Osner's post. It seems that Osner was an informant, albeit one not entirely trusted by the police. He was certainly involved in the 1968 demonstrations. Tariq Ali, one of the key organisers of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC), told me: "I remember Gerry Osner. A few of us always thought he was an agent provocateur. Soon after this was put to him he and his girlfriend disappeared." Osner retreated from VSC, which organised large, loud, angry and militant protests but always rejected wild calls for individual "terrorism." He resurfaced around those connected to the Angry Brigade in 1971. He and Poulikakou did indeed flee to Ireland. Poulikakou changed her name to Sue Richardson and went on to be involved in a variety of anarchist and community causes until her death in 2011. Osner's movements are unknown. There's a strong if circumstantial case to suggest Osner was acting as a police informant in Angry Brigade circles and that the police announcement that they were seeking his arrest was a way of preserving his cover. It also seems likely that Poulikakou was unaware of this, given her subsequent role as a well respected activist. The Osner papers show that the police wanted informants in both legal, non-violent and illegal, violent political movements. They did not seem to distinguish between the two. They also suggest - given Osner's role in VSC - that the police were pretty lax about informants becoming provocateurs. You can read more from Stuart Christie at www.christiebooks.comFollow Solomon Hughes on Twitter: @SolHughesWriter

Special Branch Police spying on Wapping strike against Murdoch

Undercover trade unionists - Special Branch just can't leave us alone;
The Freedom of Information Act has revealed the insidious nature of police surveillance, 25 years after the Wapping dispute, says Solomon Hughes

Solomon Hughes
First Published - Morning Star
March 11, 2011 Friday

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Wapping dispute - a vicious battle launched by media baron Rupert Murdoch to derecognise the unions and shift his newspapers to his east London fortress.
Losing the battle for Wapping weakened the unions and strengthened Murdoch, and we are all paying the price now - in worse conditions at work and more lies in the press. It's harder for us to strike and easier for politicians to crawl to Murdoch.
Murdoch had a lot of help at Wapping, not least from the police. Papers released to me under the Freedom of Information Act show the "anti-terrorist" police of Special Branch mounted daily surveillance of picket lines at the Wapping plant in the 1986 dispute.
The 217 pages of documents show Special Branch subjected the dispute to intense scrutiny, clearly had informants close to the labour movement and kept files on trade union leaders. The papers reveal Special Branch officers spent time recording the speeches to strikers from John Prescott, and accused other Labour MPs of giving "valuable assistance" to "factions of the left," who wanted to fan the "sparks of violent anger" on the picket line.
Some Special Branch snitches were clearly fantasists - on May 3 1986 an "informant" reported that the "leader of engineers union heard to remark 'there is going to be 16,000 at Wapping tonight. They are going specially to do up the Special Patrol Group'." On the same day another "informant" note stated: "A large contingent from Glasgow will be marching from the embankment to Wapping at 19:00. Informant states that the object of the march is to take over the plant and set it on fire."
Special Branch noted tiny details of the dispute. For example, they recorded that May 3 1986 - the reception for a Printworkers March For Jobs - was low key and "generated little interest, with support for the participants being at a subdued rather than token level. No more than 80 persons attended the social arranged to greet them last evening." This detail shows undercover officers or their informers were in attendence at the event.
Special Branch mounted national surveillance of the dispute. The files contain notes from Swindon, south Wales and Kent Special Branch detailing the number of coaches - especially those containing miners - sent to Wapping demonstrations.
A Special Branch Threat Assessment reports a "behind closed doors" mass meeting of print union Sogat 82 members on May 21 1986 when the leadership of the union were "given a rough ride" for giving in to the courts.
The High Court seized the Sogat union's funds until it called off a boycott of News International.
Sogat leader Brenda Dean gave in and "purged" the union's "contempt" of the court. Special Branch were worried about the "increasing militancy of a large number of print workers directly involved in the current dispute." They said: "The emergence of a substantial group of militant print workers may now mean that there will be two chains of command at the Wapping site with the more reasonably minded printers continuing to follow the Dean approach to the dispute and the militants devising their own methods of protest and perhaps joining forces with the now established extremist elements."
This report shows that Special Branch had access to closed union meetings and a sophisticated understanding of the dispute. It also shows that the police worried about strikers' involvement with "extremist elements," including "anarchists."
There was also a great deal of correspondence about how "the SWP are using a council flat at XXXX as their headquarters for organising activities against News International." I am pleased to note that police surveillance included regular reading of "today's issue of the communist 'Morning Star'."
Special Branch only reduced its "daily coverage" of the picket line towards the end of the dispute. It produced written daily briefs on all aspects of the strike, negotiations, union meetings and demonstrations. Surveillance of the demonstrations and pickets was painstaking, including full lists of "banners taking part," and even a list of "chants heard during the evening marches" - including "TUC get off your knees, call a general strike," and "I'd rather be a picket than a scab."
Officers made notes on speeches to strikers given by John Prescott MP. Unsurprisingly Prescott, then Labour employment spokesman, "castigated government trade union legislation and said that everyone present must work and vote for the return of a Labour government at the next general election."
By March 17 Special Branch referred to an "increasingly held view that the cause is lost" for the Wapping strikers. They added "it is this sense of 'hopelessness' which drives many of the strikers present to vent their frustration against the police and the sparks of violent confrontation so generated are then fanned by factions of the left who may be relied upon to exploit such conflagrations for their cynical propaganda purposes in which they receive much able, and valuable, assistance from Members of Parliament and other prominent political figures of a similar persuasion, some of whom are known regularly to attend the Saturday pickets in the role of 'observers'." In a report of an earlier demo, Special Branch note Tony Benn talking about the "butchery practiced by the police."
The records show Special Branch kept its own files on trade union leaders. Each report has a list of those named in the surveillance in a table showing their "SB (r)" references - referring to the squad's records. There are long file descriptions of Ken Cameron of the Fire Brigades Union and Ben Rubner of the furniture makers' union, although the words have been "redacted."
These files are a reminder that the undercover cops recently found acting the clown inside protest movements will also be involved in any major industrial disputes. They do not, however, show that the police spies had any effect on the dispute. The Wapping strikers lost because of aggressive policing on the picket line and because of a shortage of solidarity from the TUC and Labour leadership, not because of what plainclothes policemen wrote in and their notebooks.

Adrian Mitchell and the Special Branch Poetry Critics

The poetry critics from Special Branch
Solomon Hughes
(Originally published - Morning Star - January 3rd 2009, following the death of Adrian Mitchell.)
The strongest  lost radical voice of 2009  belonged to the poet Adrian Mitchell, who died on the December 20.
His poem To Whom It May Concern remains one of the most powerful anti-war works of our times.
If we journalists had remembered it better, we would have uncovered more of the empty propaganda promoting the war on Iraq before the conflict started, rather than after the bombs have dropped.
Mitchell's words held as well for the newsroom in 2003 as in 1964. He wrote: "So chain my tongue with whisky/Stuff my nose with garlic/Coat my eyes with butter/Fill my ears with silver/Stick my legs in plaster/Tell me lies about Vietnam."
The whisky-chained tongues and silver-filled ears were sadly around for Iraq as well as Vietnam.
The murderous hokey-cokey of Mitchell's poem, where "You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out/You take the human being and you twist it all about" is also now being danced around the Gaza Strip.
I spoke briefly to Mitchell last year when I found that Special Branch had opened a file on the poet.
I got hold of a previously secret Special Branch report of a 1968 Youth CND demonstration against the Vietnam war.
Mitchell addressed the demo and the documents showed that Special Branch had added their notes of his address to their " Adrian Mitchell" file.
The cloth-eared Special Branch poetry critic was not a fan of Mitchell's oeuvre.
The undercover policeman wrote: "Adrian Mitchell recited one of his poems, the meaning of which was largely unintelligible."
Even today, some of what Special Branch wrote about Mitchell was "redacted" - it was blanked out and remains secret.
I spoke to Mitchell and he gave me what every journalist wants - a good quote.
He told me that he thought that the "intelligence" services had been interested in him ever since he went to a Communist Party wine and cheese event for peace at Oxford.
He told me: "I wasn't a Communist, but I like wine. And cheese. And peace." Mitchell also said that Special Branch were "very silly, but I hope they still have their notebooks open because I'm still doing this stuff."
Unfortunately, they can now close their notebooks as Mitchell he is unable to continue doing his radical stuff, but I remain very glad that he did.
I hope that another generation of poets is ready to dictate their work into Special Branch notebooks now Mitchell is unavailable to the Secret Police Poetry Appreciation Society.

Special Branch spying on CND

Threat of peaceful protest - Hunting out low people in high places; 
Solomon Hughes argues that there are striking parallels between the state's attitude toward climate camp protesters at Kingsnorth and anti-Vietnam war protesters of the 1960s

 Solomon Hughes
First published - Morning Star
August 15, 2008 Friday

The news that ministers were paying millions so that thousands of police could harass the climate camp protesters at Kingsnorth power station sounded familiar.
Police accused protesters of stockpiling knives and they ran midnight searches, grabbing all kinds of non-threatening stuff from the campers and generally harassing the protesters.
As I have discovered through a series of official documents, ministers and police reacted to the 1968 anti-Vietnam war demos with similar, if stronger, hysteria.
They accused protesters of sneaking "acid-filled eggs" in their lunchboxes, mobilised the "bomb squad" in case demonstrators hurled infernal devices, discussed using troops against protesters and leaned on telly and newspaper bosses to make sure that demonstrators were portrayed unsympathetically even when they were getting a kicking from the cops.
This shows two things. First, that there was a time in history when even the wildest protesters brought lunchboxes along to help them fight the powers that be. Second, that ministers and security officials love to talk about threats such as terrorism and violence but use their powers most enthusiastically against legitimate protesters.
In a similar vein, papers that I received under the Freedom of Information Act show that the government wanted surveillance on CND from the 1960s onward.
Special Branch officers were sent to dozens of CND meetings. Veteran political activist Walter Wolfgang came to national attention in 2005 when he was thrown out of the Labour conference and briefly arrested under anti-terror legislation for shouting "nonsense" at Jack Straw. He appears in Special Branch files long before then.
In 1962, a member of the anti-terrorist police sat in the audience and wrote down Wolfgang's speech "on the latest developments in nuclear strategy and advice to CND speakers to assist them to 'put over' their arguments to the public."
Special Branch also opened a file on him. Officers filled in dozens of reports about the growing political campaign and the report notes that "CND and other pacifist literature was on sale, copies of which are already in Special Branch."
The descriptions of worthy but uneventful meetings show that this political surveillance was the worst kind of wasting police time. At a May 1962 meeting in Fitzroy Square, "the proceedings ... were orderly throughout." In High Wycombe, "the meeting was orderly and there were no incidents" and, elsewhere, "the proceedings terminated at 6pm and those taking part left the Town Hall quietly."
Each report ends with "names checked against Special Branch files." It seems that participating in "orderly" meetings and going home "quietly" were the spur for a major police operation and the keeping of files.
The police, with ministerial direction, thought that keeping tabs on protesters was one of their top priorities in 1962 and they think the same way 46 years later.
Even in the 1980s, when Special Branch was dealing with a very real threat from the IRA, they found time to send dozens of officers to CND meetings.
The thick wadge of files from the 1980s include dozens of reports, including surveillance of demonstrations with less than 20 participants.
At one very large 1983 CND demo, officers went as far as counting how many black people had attended, observing that "very few non-white faces were seen" and, "of those coloured persons seen, most were present as supporters of political (extremist) or trade union groups."
The point is that the amount of police attention given to protesters depends on the political impact of the demonstrators, not the imaginary threats of "violence"

Labour seriously considered using the Army against Anti Vietnam War demonstrators in 1968

Feature - Send in the troops - Hunting out low people in high places; 
Solomon Hughes investigates why Labour discussed calling the army in 1968

Solomon Hughes

First published - Morning Star
June 20, 2008 Friday

Gordon Brown argues that there is no threat to civil liberties because his new laws will only grind down on "terrorists." Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said that we mustn't be "lulled into a false sense of security" in the "war on terror."
The problem is that Smith and Brown, like many governments before them, are singing themselves too many lullabies of anxiety.
Because, when the government feels lonely, isolated or unloved, it starts peering out through the Downing Street railings and seeing "terrorists" everywhere. Political challenges get redefined as security challenges.
The government's propensity to view protesters as terrorists and banner wavers as bomb throwers was reinforced by the Police Special Branch papers that I dug out on 1968 British protests against the Vietnam war.
As readers of this column know, the "anti terrorist" police kept the anti-war demonstrators under intense scrutiny. They convinced themselves that the demonstrators were a security threat and put bomb squad officers on the streets, believing that the protesters might use explosives.
In their press-fuelled panic, the police convinced themselves of other dangers.
A "branch note" of "information of use in circumstances where vehicles carrying demonstrators are stopped in the outskirts" reports that "Charles Sandal, News of the World reporter" had told the coppers "that students coming into town for the demonstration will carry eggs filled with acid, in lunch boxes, to avoid detection."
So, the man from the News of the World said that students had acid-filled eggs in their lunch boxes and the police treated this barmy rumour as fact and started an easter-egg hunt through the lunch boxes of terror.
The acid-filled eggs failed to appear, as did the infernal devices.
I have now received another set of papers from the Home Office which show that the panic went higher up the political food chain, beyond Special Branch's paranoid commanders and right into the Cabinet.
Harold Wilson's Labour government seriously considered, although finally rejected, using troops to police anti-Vietnam war demonstrations in 1968.
The Cabinet Office, Home Office and Metropolitan Police have all refused freedom of information requests to open their files on the unruly protest outside the American embassy in Grosvenor Square in March 1968.
However, another protest was called by the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign for October, a demonstration which ultimately proved to be both large and more peaceful than the famous Grosvenor Square conflict. Home Office papers relating to this demo include a letter from defence secretary Denis Healey to home secretary Jim Callaghan that reveals the debate about using soldiers.
Healey writes: "Dear Jim,
"As you are aware there has been some uneasiness in my department about the possibility, however remote, that troops might have to be called on to help at the last moment to help with the demonstration planned for 27th October."
Healey is pleased to hear that "the commissioner for police has come to the firm conclusion that he could see no possible circumstances arising" that would "lead him to call for help from the services."
However, even though Healey accepted that soldiers were not needed to help the police face protesters, he went on to discuss how troops could help in a "passive" way.
Healey writes: "It is quite clear that it would be undesirable for troops ever to be used in an active role once a demonstration had got out of hand."
However, he adds: "Troops should only be used, if they are used at all, in a purely passive role in order to prevent a situation getting out of control.
"Examples of the sort of thing which unarmed troops might be able to do are internal protection and security of government buildings or the passive blocking off of an area or street using normal police techniques of the less active kind."
The then defence secretary adds that they would need 'some training in the techniques to be used" and the authorities would have to make sure that there was no "leak to the press."
Healey says: "Once the men were trained, a number could be made available at comparatively short notice in times of difficulty."
A draft reply from Callaghan to Healey shows that his offer of "passive" troops was also rejected because "the consequence of using servicemen even in a passive role could be very serious" and both Callaghan and the police commissioner were "firmly against the idea."
The history books all tell one tale about Callaghan's response to the 1968 demonstrations.
They say that Sunny Jim followed the pragmatic British approach. He stayed calm and let the demonstrations take place. Liberty trumped security.
In fairness to Callaghan, this was the case in the end.
However, the hitherto completely unknown fact that Healey and Callaghan actively and seriously discussed putting troops on the streets in 1968 tells us two things. First, it says that the 1968 protesters shook the Establishment more than we knew. Second, it says that even a Labour government which is way to the left of today's bunch can look at protesters and begin to believe that they are facing some kind of security threat.
The really brave
We don't need to go back to 1968 to see the government using anti-terrorist laws for political gain. The police banned the recent demo outside George W Bush and Gordon Brown'sDowning Street tea party claiming that 'security" was at stake.
After some pressure, the police allowed protest in Parliament Square but placed an exclusion zone around Whitehall.
There is a sense that Bush is a man on the way out, which kept the turnout at the protest low. But Bush isn't going quietly.
His sudden demand that Brown keep troops in Iraq turned up the political temperature.
Thankfully, the demonstrators showed that there is an alternative, while an embarrassed, grovelling Brown grinned fixedly through Bush's demands that Britain stick with Plan Bush.
The police responded in two ways. First, they bopped protesters on the heads with batons. Second, they continued linking protesters to terrorists.
Disgracefully, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison talked about the "threat from terrorism," saying that the protesters "can be used as cover for more sinister criminal activity." So it seems that my 12-year-old son and I are a sinister threat.
Sunday's demonstrators were standing up for the right to demonstrate and against the blanket use of anti-terror laws. David Davis has been described as "brave" for his stand on civil liberties. The protesters who bore the brunt of the police thrashing on Sunday look a lot braver.

Police so frightened of 68 Anti Vietnam War protests that they mobilised a "bomb squad"

Feature - Freaking out the fuzz; 
Hunting out low people in high places. How the Metropolitan Police convinced themselves in 1968 that anti-Vietnam War campaigners were hell-bent on bringing about a violent revolution in Britain

Solomon Hughes (First Published Morning Star June 6 2008)

Just how deeply did the 1968 events shake the British Establishment? The orthodox history says not much.
The Rolling Stones '68 song Street Fighting Man complains that, while continentals have "riots revolutions" in "sleepy London town," the "game to play is compromise solutions."
The history books agree, saying that "les evenements" shook France but barely wobbled Britain.
However, looking through the eyes of the police shows that the boys in blue were pretty panicked by the British protests of the "red" year.
Opponents of the Vietnam War shocked the Establishment with a forceful, rowdy demo outside the US embassy at Grosvenor Square in March.
Protesters mobilised by the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign refused to be told what to do by the police and tried to force their way into the embassy.
Another demo was called for October 1968, a protest that was larger but, ultimately, less confrontational.
The Metropolitan Police still won't release the 40-year-old files on the March protests.
They did send me a two-inch-thick file on the October demo. It shows that they were so worried about "the use of calculated violence as a political weapon" that they mobilised bomb disposal officers in case the marchers hurled explosives.
Police letters say that "arrangements have been made for the four explosives officers to be available, based at Cannon Row Police Station, to cover the whole period up until midnight, Sunday October 27," adding: "Arrangements have been made for a driver and a towing vehicle at Cannon Row to tow the trailer containing the special equipment of the explosives officers."
The explosives officers are identified as "Majors Biddle, Henderson and Wilson and Captain Hawkins."
Geoffrey "the Bishop" Biddle and Major Don Henderson were the Met's top explosives experts, who would later become famous defusing IRA bombs.
There was no terrorist threat in 1968, so Major Biddle and co spent most of their time helping defuse safebreakers' explosives.
The Vietnam protesters, of course, did not use any bombs, but the security forces were so spooked by the new left that the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign inadvertently pulled together Britain's "bomb squad" for the first time.
The papers also show that the police had "four scientists and two scenes of crimes officers for October 27 to deal with any incident of arson, ie the use of petrol bombs etc," on call. They were also unneeded, as the much-predicted batteries of Molotov cocktails were not thrown.
The police arrangements reflected a panic in the Establishment. They simply could not understand the militancy of the new protesters.
The fact that the demonstrators were not only angry about Vietnam but also wanted to change the world, in the language of the time, freaked them out.
According to a Special Branch assessment a few weeks before the March, "in the past few months, a number of revolutionary leaders have produced study papers on this demonstration, the theme is common. It is said that the anti-Vietnam War protest movement is merely part of the continuing struggle to bring about world-wide revolution and that this demonstration can only be regarded as a skirmish before the larger battle.
"The figure of 100,000 demonstrators began to be bandied about - there was general agreement that this number of militant demonstrators would bring about a total breakdown of law and order."
These assessments were apparently based on intense surveillance of the demonstrators. As well as talking about the internal discussions of the demonstrators, the Special Branch files list the employees and addresses of the various campaign groups.
The papers include a five-page "summary of intelligence regarding coaches from the provinces travelling to the October 27 demonstration" from the commander of Special Branch, with details of travellers from as far afield as Edinburgh and Cardiff.
There are incredibly detailed descriptions of predicted travellers to the demonstration, ranging from "four coaches" from Bradford to "two dormobiles, index numbers EBC432C and MBC946F or E, containing about 20 students" coming from Leicester. It is unclear how the police knew the number plates of two private vans coming from the Midlands.
For all their intelligence, the police were remarkably wrong about the protest. There were no infernal devices, no ammonia and no petrol or acid bombs. There were "various missiles, coins, fruit, banner poles and sticks, fireworks etc" thrown, resulting in "minor injuries sustained by police and demonstrators."
The arrest lists are underwhelming, running to "larceny of road lamps" and "possession of a stethoscope."
Part of the problem was that the police deliberately leaked crazy stories about revolutionary violence to the press in the run-up to the demo in an effort to scare people away. This tactic failed and even rebounded.
Ernie Tate, one of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign leaders named in the papers put it best. He told me: "We really had them rattled in '68. In the end, they only frightened themselves with their scare tactics."
The second problem was that the police were shocked by the protesters' ambition but could only understand a desire to change the world in terms of violence. There were no bombs, but 1968 introduced politically explosive ideas.
Special Branch assessments said: "The climate of opinion among extreme left-wing elements in this country in relation to public political protest has undergone a radical change over the last few years.
"The emphasis has shifted first from orderly, peaceful, co-operative meetings and processions to passive resistance and 'sit downs' and now to active confrontation with the authorities to attempt to force social changes and alterations of government policy.
"Indeed, the more vociferous spokesmen of the left are calling for the complete overthrow of parliamentary democracy and the substitution of various brands of 'socialism' and 'workers control.'
"They claim that this can only be achieved by 'action on the streets' and, although few of them will admit it publicly or in the press, that they desire a state of anarchy.
"It is, nevertheless, tacitly accepted that such a condition is a necessary preamble to engineering a breakdown of our present system of government and achieving a revolutionary change in the society in which we live."
I draw two lessons from these papers. First, that they show that the security forces are panicky and deeply conservative, easily confuse protest with terrorism and treat political campaigners like criminals - worth remembering as current "anti-terrorist" legislation bleeds into criminalising protest.
Second, big demonstrations with big political ambitions shake the authorities, which can only be a good thing.

Thatcher tried to ban 1984 CND anti Reagan Demo. Special Branch monitored number of "Non White" and "Coloured" CND protestors

Demo demons; 
Hunting out low people in high places. Solomon Hughes examines the newly released documents that reveal Thatcher's hatred of CND
Solomon Hughes
(First published: Morning Star June 30, 2006 )
Back in 1984, former prime minister Margaret Thatcher wanted to ban a CND demo because it coincided with a visit by her pal President Reagan, according to papers released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The police talked Thatcher out of the idea, although Special Branch still did its best to find "subversives" among the CND marchers of the time.
Reagan came to London in that year for an economic summit. According to the Home Office papers, the "CND line has been that they would hold no major demonstration in London during 1984.
"But, when London CND announced a major demonstration directed at the summit (and, more particularly, president Reagan) national CND appear to have decided to take it over and ensure that it was stewarded effectively, rather than risk it getting out of hand."
A three-page minute written for Thatcher discusses banning the march. The note breaks the bad news that the police expected up to 100,000 protesters massing in Hyde Park and "this is a body of a size which cannot be physically prevented from moving, if it wished to do so."
It continues that, "as a practical matter, to prevent the march from ever leaving Hyde Park by force would, in the police view, be impossible and one can see why."
The Home Office then discusses the legal grounds for banning the march. The Home Secretary can stop a demonstration, but only if "the powers to direct the route will not be sufficient to enable him to prevent serious public disorder."
The Home Office told the Prime Minister: "I think the police would be in difficulty in arguing that there is a threat of 'serious public disorder' especially in view of the organisers' co-operation."
The possibility of banning the march was undermined by the advanced police negotiations with the CND.
The police believed that any attempts by protesters to "break away" from the march and get closer to Reagan "would be small enough to be contained."
While Thatcher wanted the march stopped, the police were impressed by the complete reasonableness of the CND.
The bad news for Thatcher was that the police believed that "the majority of the participants would be reasonable people, who would co-operate with the police on the day, if given a reasonable outlet for their feelings," so there was no need to stop them.
A possible ban was further undermined by the fact that Environment Secretary Patrick Jenkin had already given the CND permission to use Trafalgar Square on June 9 when Reagan arrived.
The papers said: "Unfortunately, the Home Office were not consulted before this decision was taken" because "the relevance of the date was, presumably, missed on this occasion."
The Home Office advice for Thatcher concludes: "A march on this scale will attract major news coverage, which may distract from the summit."
However, it admits: "In the circumstances, unwelcome though this demonstration may be, there do not appear to be any grounds or powers to prohibit it."
A Downing Street reply to the memo conceded that "Ms Thatcher agrees that we have to accept the judgement of the police" on the march. The Home Ofice papers covering CND demonstrations of the 1980s also show that Special Branch spent considerable time reporting on CND demos.
There is, for example, a 47-page report from the organisation describing the October 22 1983 national CND demo. The report lists every single banner on the march and has a page listing slogans chanted. Struggling to find any example of "extremist, subversive or political groups," Special Branch resorted to counting the number of black people on the march.
"Very few non-white faces were seen during the marches and subsequent rally. Of those coloured persons seen, most were present as supporters of political (extremist) or trades union groups. Hardly any CND branch numbered a member of the ethnic minority in its ranks."
The Special Branch report includes a summary of every speech given in Hyde Park on the day. These include notes on Benjamin Zephaniah, "a black dub ranta (political poet)" and a discussion of a "coloured American lady, who was introduced as an associate of Martin Luther King."
Special Branch spent some time recording the songs and speech of former Osibisa member Spartacus R, a "black singer."
Presumably, searching for signs of incitement to violence, Special Branch says: "Of certain significance was his final speech to the crowd.
"He said: 'It's not enough to demonstrate. It's good because it shows we have solidarity, but it's not enough. You've got to hit the people who are doing this. Hit them, hit them. Freedom comes first, peace second. How can I be at peace when you're standing in my head?' His comments drew applause from a section of the audience."
Special Branch was embarrassed by the large turnout of the demonstration, as it had predicted that only 50,000 - 70,000 would protest. It believed that CND had run out of steam after Thatcher's re-election. However, the papers show that "the police have confirmed that around 200,000 people took part - some three times the predicted minimum."
This intelligence failure was a "matter of concern" and led to many internal papers invetigating why Special Branch had failed to predict such a big demo