2. If those sorting out a demonstration decide to have that demonstration outside HLS on a Monday for a change instead of the usual Friday there are a whole range of possibilities other than it being a police trap, for example that being when people could actually attend!
3. If those posting paranoid crap are in fact police officers (which is a good possibility) they have a very good reason for doing so. Divide and rule. A movement where every new comer is treated with suspicion, where individuals are branded as “grasses” because they are not arrested or charged, or because they make small talk with the police (nice day isn’t it? How many donuts have YOU had? My what a big truncheon you’ve got!) etc ceases to be a movement VERY quickly. We have heard that the FBI used this tactic against the Black Panthers, spread misinformation and got severe divisions. Maybe someone knows more about this?
4. Three activists who really trust one another decide to liberate some hamsters. They succeed and this is posted anonymously on activist media. No-one should know who they are and none of them should tell anyone else unless of course they are convicted or they all decide to go public e.g an “open” liberation. If arrested every activist unless acting alone should not answer questions as they will jeopardise co-defendants. If you are a distrustful soul do things alone and keep your paranoia to yourself! Knowledge should be on a need to know basis if of a sensitive nature. Bear in mind if the police think it is serious enough they can and probably will arrest people long after the alleged offence, there is not a time limit on “serious” offences.
5. Having said all this of course the police and big companies will be doing their utmost to infiltrate. Personality clashes between activists, financial hardship and threats as well as incentives to talk for example money all have the potential to turn some individuals into grasses or informers. EVERYONE needs to be aware of this. Making people included in decision making, helping one another out, creating a strong activist community where those suffering persecution from the state or in the personal realm are supported by other activists is one way to minimise this risk. Creating an open culture whereby activists can voice concerns to one another is another. Bear in mind how nasty the police can be. Activists with children have even been threatened with having their children being taken into care. We can all be vulnerable, they know this and will use any lever. Every activist needs to know that they can turn to others for support.
6. Many of us have been approached by the police at home and/or on the phone by the police and asked to be informers and we have declined most politely and posted this information on Indymedia. Activists might find that the police try and appeal to their sense of “decency” for example to help catch “terrorists”, or they might be threatened, or offered money, goods or a favour e.g drop charges, a good word in court. Be aware of the fact that the police lie and exaggerate. We would urge everyone in this position to let as many other activists know as possible or at least to get support from those closest to them. It is important for activists to know what has been asked, what offers made and any threats made. It might be the case for example that another activist could be alerted to the fact that the police are interested in him/her. Be aware that some activists may prefer not to tell others that they have been approached as is their right. How do the police find out addresses and phone numbers…well… they are the police and have access to all sorts of databases. NB For anyone playing the police along giving them false information, be careful, get at least one person to support you/know where you are and good luck.
7. If an activist does something really horrendous for example rape none of this applies. Reporting something to the police either as a victim or as a third party if violently abusive to a living being should not render someone a “grass”. This could do with some really serious discussion between activists comments welcome. Helping the police look for a missing child or as some of us did during the floods directing traffic away from a bridge about to collapse are more about assisting the community and basic decency and times during which the hatchet is buried but close by and not too deep( by the police anyway).
8. Sometimes activists and police find themselves working together for example if an activist is assaulted by another police officer for instance. A word of warning the police may arrest a fellow officer, they will go through the motions but they will usually not be overenthusiastic. Get a good lawyer on board and when you are a witness for the prosecution be aware that they will try and get information from you regarding actions and other activists be careful do not let your guard down especially just after being attacked. If giving a statement it might be worth having a lawyer present. Professional standards have been useful in quite a few situations but they are still police officers even if they are shunned in the canteen. The Independent police Complaints Commission can also be very good but they are really not “independent” at all.
9. It is probably ill advised to go out for a coffee or even worse an alcoholic drink with the police unless you really know what you are doing which is really unlikely in 99.9 per cent of cases. Just say “no thanks” because they will be trying to get information out of you to use against you and others. It is certainly not unknown for police officers to follow activists into cafes/ pubs and sit alongside activists they love us so much.
To conclude…be aware that security is a serious issue but do not make false or unfounded allegations which undermine other activists and threaten various movements. Support others and expect to be supported . You can be civil to the police and even help them if they are doing something decent such as rescuing a cat from a tree but never forget that they are your enemy and as an organisation (however nice individuals may appear, and the “nice” veneer slips quickly if they don’t get what they want) their remit is to protect big business and to stop us campaigning against vivisection, global warming, anything in fact that threatens profit. They are utterly ruthless and will go to almost any lengths although we are far luckier than other activists in other parts of the world who face routine torture and death.
If you are worried you have a grass or infiltrator in your group we recommend also reading section 3 of the Activist Security handbook (Word Doc).