A Facebook page scrutinizing PSNI harassment and operations has been forced to close down today due to a media frenzy and scaremongering from the police and politicians. The Facebook page Crown Forces Watch has dominated news headlines and radio shows this morning with the Chairman of the Police Federation Terry Spence claiming the site was ‘an attempt to gather information which is likely to be of use to terrorists which I am in no doubt will be used in attempts to target police officers for murder."
However the page description read "Over the past few days in East Tyrone and South Derry the Crown Forces the PSNI/RUC (Police Service of Northern Ireland/Royal Ulster Constabulary) have launched a massive harassment and intimidation campaign aimed at Irish republicans. We must work together to combat this campaign of intimidation and harassment by working together as a fraternity opposed to this British oppression. The aim of this group is to keep people updated on the attacks, intimidation and ongoing harassment by the Crown Forces."
In an era of greater state powers, the curtailing of civil liberties and police repression of dissent this should come as no surprise. Policing by its very nature is political under any government as its first priority is to protect the status-quo and they will utilise everything in their arsenal to criminalise opposition. This is pattern taking place at home and abroad from the cases of agent provocatuers within peaceful environmental and social justice movements to the recent exposure of corruption in the Metropolitan police with journalists.
Anyone who has been on a political demonstration on recent years will know the covert and overt level of police harassment and intimidation including video recording and the unprecedented use of anti-terrorism legislation as a first line of resort. We only need to look at the recent stop and search operation carried out by the PSNI against members and supporters of the Republican Network for Unity for over 2 hours including children as young as 4 outside Bainbridge. From the struggle against Shell in Rossport to the tragic death of Terence Wheelock nearly 10 years ago in Dublin bears witness to the cutting edge of ‘policing by consent’ in which the rights and dignity of people have been brutally trampled on.
This week the Guardian newspaper broke a story that the head of the Westminster anti-terror police are calling on people to report anarchists. In recent years, the PSNI has published pictures of young people allegedly involved in riotous behaviour which has been condemned by various human rights bodies which clearly highlights that there is one rule for them and one for the rest of us. What right do the police have to video record and take pictures of people at demonstrations? Where is the presumption of innocence and what crime have people committed? In Northern Ireland, people have a right to be concerned given the documented history of state collusion with loyalist paramilitaries which went beyond merely a few bad apples.
All these questions we need to ask ourselves is part of the larger picture of the role of policing in our communities and whose interests do they serve.
As a recent WSM article on policing and law pointed out ‘Anarchists are opposed to policing in its current form since it embodies the antithesis of what we believe so strongly in: freedom. By being given a monopoly over force and violence, the legitimised abilities to pin you to the ground, silence you, lock you up - they have the power to violate your liberty at will, all in the name of the law.’ Quite clearly, the various toothless policing boards are clearly not up for the job so it is up to working class people to expose and confront political policing.
WORDS: Sean Matthews WSM