It would be incredibly naive to think that the police and state would not have undercover agents inside this protest, considering the president of the United States, “the leader of the free world”, or most brutal global dictator the world has ever seen – it depends on who you ask – was barely 500 metres away. But, uncover agents inciting others to join the frontlines of an already violent situation takes it one stage further to agent provocateur.
On Friday 13 June in an Evening Standard report a Met spokeswoman stated that a “large amount of covert work” would be going on around the Bush Downing Street visit.
On that afternoon, I too had an incident that made me, despite the incredibly cramped and crushing conditions, switch on the camera to grab a clear shot of the perpetrator.
The man, who forcefully barged past to get to a position right in front of me, knocking into a woman and others at the same time, wore a black shirt, black fleece and a black baseball cap. He was late 30s early 40s.
Once in position he looked nervous and completely out of place. I spotted a walkie-talkie sticking out of his right pocket. He too, like the account of Yasmin Whittaker-Khan, seemed to be carrying a large and expensive-looking camera, and at first impressions looked like a photojournalist.
After barging into me and the woman, I confronted him, asking: “What the hell do think you’re doing?”
He replied by saying something like, “don’t even think about it, pal.”
From then on, until I was distracted by batons raining down on protestors heads, I filmed him as he moved further into the protest, to stand close to Respect MP George Galloway, still looking nervous and edgy.
He did not participate in the protest, in fact he seemed visibly offended by the protestors, and at no time did he seem interested in the police clashes, which, at that time, every other journalist was pointing their cameras at, snapping vigorously. In short, he stood out like a sore thumb and did not belong there.
The Evening Standard also reported the police and security costs for that day would be somewhere in the region of £1 million ($), whereas the policing to protect the Beijing Olympic Torch back in April was £746,000.
By Monday 16 June, according to the free London newspaper The Metro – not the most newsworthy of papers, but free – the final cost to welcome George W. Bush was around £5 million ($). Scotland Yard refused to comment on the full cost at the time of that report.
But still, the question is laid down: what would the police and state gain from inciting violence or provocation during this protest?
My last article asked what the state response would be to two recent anti-war protests turning to unrest and even violence. For one thing, in the eyes of an authority with a set political agenda, these recent incidents only highlight the need for the current restrictions on protest and civil rights and the impending further laws to be brought in under the 2008 Counter Terrorism Act.
The sceptic would claim if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about. But as the last eight years has seen, even before 9/11, despite the UK government assurances this would never happen, the terrorism and other laws have been used against peaceful protestors, to curb military veterans speaking out and to curtail demonstration and the everyday public life.
The 2005 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) banned unauthorised protest within a kilometre of the seat of UK democracy, the Houses of Parliament. Again, despite abject government assurances this law was solely created to protect parliament from terrorists hiding in a demonstration, “SOCPA zones” started popping up all over the UK. At military bases, nuclear installations and even animal research laboratories. And then “free speech zones” appeared – insinuating free speech was illegal outside those zones.
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