On the 1st July a successful previous action (see indymedias past), designed to blockade the supermarkets 5 big fresh food distribution centres was intercepted by police in two regions- Bristol and Brimingham. But due to a combination of low police numbers and activist ingenuity the actions still stopped traffic from entering and leaving the depots. it seemed taht police had been unsure as to when demonstrators may have been appearing, there were reports that they had been guarding the depots for several nights.
The usual attempts at fairly secure covert organising had been made in the run up to the first action, and the police presence came as a considerable shock. However, there had been a suspected hole in the system, which was subsequently plugged, and although the covett organising for the blockade was cautious, it was also fairly confident.
The experience at the Birmingham depot on the second occasion however, proved how spectacularly ungrounded that optimism had been. The police actually employed intelligence in their operation. Instead of repeating their previous strategy of placing a roadblock on a roundabout before the entrance to the depot, ( with unmarked cop cars blatantly loitering in the approaching laybys) their was no sign of them at all as the action convoy approached the distirbution centres gates. The security guard did look surprisisngly unfazed as tripods were taken rapidly from the minibus roof, but within a ninute and a half of the van stopping a police car had pulled up. The police who appeared from it had clearly been trained in tripod appropriation. Instead of trying to apprehend individuals they stood either side of the still prone scaffolding poles, preventing them from being spread so the tripod could be erected. More police vans and cars appeared on the scene within seconds. Two people were arrested for obstuction afer refusing to relinqich their tripod. Both were charged with obstruction of the highway. The minibus driver was given a producer, but the vehicle wasn't searched and details weren't taken of those who stayed near the scene.
On leaving the area the foces tactical support Group (TSG), complete with vans carrying scaffolding towers used to remove people from tripods, were seen preparing to leave too. On the previous occasion the TSG were believed to have been shipped up from London. A police helicopter circled the depot for a considerable time after the protest had been broken up.
It seems that similar police protection measures wre monted at the other 5 depots. At Liverpool there were police hidding in the bushes on the footpath approaching the depot. Even in Scotland the constabulary were on the case, and none of the planned actions went ahead. Scouts or platant roadblocks stopped other regions from even attempting to get set up, and there were no other arrests.
Some weeks latter, Liverpool sucessfully returned to their depot and stopped all goods movement for 3 1/2 hours.
In some ways this level of state attention is a vindication of the depot blockade tactic. It has been estimated that the last blockade cost Sainsbury's £3.7 million, which buys you alot of attention. Monting a police operation on such a scale is a very expensive undertaking, both in terms of information gathering and execution on the night. It would not be fanciful to suggest theat while some of the intelligence may have been acquired by private investigators, a corporation with the financial clout and political connections of Sainsbury's is quite capable of persuading CID to do their dirty work for them. however, this backhanded complement, whcile clearly demonstrating that we've hit a very raw nerve, is something whcih must be overcome if the campaign for a fair price for GM free milk is to deliver on it's substantial start.
To that end there follows a basic list of security measures, as a reminder of the steps that can be taken to preserve the secrecy and effectiveness of our work. Often in the past people have been tempted to dismiss some of these precautions as excessive and paranoid. At the moment there doesn't seem any point in taking chances.
They can of course ont guarantee success. Infiltration is a tried and tested policing method within the ecological direct action community. as it is within other resistance movements, and it would be naive to assume that it ws not the problem in this case. However, spending time and suspicicon speculation about possible culprits usually does the state more favours than us. Instead, perhaps make sure everyone you work with knows the
RECIPE FOR SURPRISE
Organise all covert actions face to face in very noisy pubs (where you can't be overheard) or in private or remote areas.
However, don't talk near landline phones or mobile phones. Unplug landlines and removing the battery from mobile phones if they're in the vacinity.
However, if you're in a well- known activist centre or house, assume the place is bugged or could have a directional microphone trialed on it, go elsewhere to plan.
In a case like the depot blockades, where the only real variable factor is the date, don't say the date out loud at all when meeting with other activists, point to it in a diary.
When booking equipment for an action (such as vehicles) vary your supplier if possible and ring from a phone box or your grans place (unless your grans into corporate sabotage too).
If you have to acquire equipment like scaffolding, store it somewhere discrete and practice out of public view.
Don't telll anyone who doesn't absolutely have to know, what you're doing. Never talk about it in quiet public places.
Ring your friends both locally and nationally lots, and socialise with them, so that spending time with them doesn't seem like a suspicious activity...
Assume that everything being said over a phone is being listened to. Don't make phonecalls in the day or so before an action. The increas in traffic, even if cleverly disguised as casual calls, can alert them. Personally I have qualms about phone box to phone box communicatio. If I were listneing in, hearing someone say- ' could you ring me from a phone box' would instantly get me interested and listening to all the local phonebox lines.
All computers are evil. Email is as vulnerable as phones to interception, some people trust dead letterboxes, some trust PGP. If organising nationally always respect other peoples working methods by adoptin the highest regional level of securith for everyone.
Post gets opened, but is better than phone or email. Always disguise the real message behind a plausaible pre-arranged code.
Don't forget that ultimatly the worst that's likely to happen is that
A) you'll get foiled.
B) Nothing will happen because communications are hampered by security measures.
And remember kids, we generally don't get systematically tortured in the UK for stopping bad stuff. It's our duty to keep doing this for all those that can't. Even if it makes us feel a bit paranoid occasionally.