Undercover cops and protest

The case against six protestors collapsed today in the wake of an extraordinary saga involving an erstwhile undercover policeman. Even now, early in the story’s unfolding, it is worth saying that in principle the police are probably right to operate undercover amongst protestors, even at considerable expense.

 The environmentalists had been charged with conspiring to shut down the coal-fired Ratcliffe-on-Soar plant outside Nottingham in April 2009.

Mike Schwarz, the protestors’ lawyer, has talked about climate protest as “accountable” and Jenny Jones, a Green Party member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, has talked of it as being the “pink, fluffy” end of protest.

The difficulty is that a fair few climate protestors have declared themselves to be committed to “peaceful direct action” which they seem happy to define as including criminal economic damage. They are not remotely accountable, except (with luck) to the law. Any tax-payer or airline passenger or energy consumer should be pleased that the police want to understand the inner workings of their operations.

This is not to say the police handled their undercover work well, or that the prosecution authorities played their part properly.


It wouldn't be beyond the realms of imagination for another organisation with more sinister aims to take cotrol of one of these green protests and totally divert it for evil means after all the IRA used to target power supplies in the '60's. What could be worse than a nuclear protest getting taken over by anti western terrorists. Also remember how terrifying the Animal liberation fronts campaigns were for many scientists involved in vital research over the last thirty years. I have always believed that Ghandi's teaching on non violent protest have failed to been followed by many in the protest movement. Also if your argument is of sufficient merit it can be made without violence. Violence often slows down the acceptance of your argument rather than allows its acceptance. It is one of the greatest tragedy's of the UK that catholic Irish people who wanted equal opportunities in the province of Northern Ireland had their cause denied for so long simply because extremists took over their cause. The same has happened in Palestine and it has also happened in Turkey. When will people learn that two wrongs do not make a right. Might on one side does not equal right to do all. Frightened people do not make rational thinkers. If you want to protest then the best kind has got to be guerilla gardening, flash mobs or anything that makes your opponent look absurd for even trying to oppose your argument with force. Wit can win more hearts than a petrol bomb or a broken window. The majority of people watch violent protests on the news and are disgusted by the destruction unfortunately the modern media's need for pictures and confrontation and the move away from reporting events to manipulation means that people are more likely to resort to violence like a petulant toddler than make a rational coherent argument, as a result we have die hard misguided Islamic Jihadists in their scruffy gowns squaring up to the English Defence League like a bunch of cartoon characters (anybody remember the Jocks and the Geordies now we have the Georgies and the Jihadis) and we no longer ask the more interesting questions about why and we just concentrate on pictures. 24 hr news is making idiots of us all.

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Publication date

10 January 2011