Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake has confirmed he will demand a full investigation into evidence that police officers in plain clothes were deployed to incite the crowd to commit acts of violence and attack other officers during the demonstrations which coincided with the G20 summit in London on April 1st .
Brake, a member of the home affairs select committee, says he saw two men who had been throwing bottles at police officers and encouraging protesters to do the same flash some form of identification which allowed them to move behind police lines at the protest, which took place in London’s square mile in the vicinity of the Bank of England.
The Liberal Democrat member of the house says numerous eyewitnesses saw the same two men in plain clothes hurry out of the thronging crowd after members of the public confronted them, accusing them of being undercover officers. An article published on Sunday May 10th by The Observer stated that Brake had indicated his intention to raise the matter with the parliamentary joint commission on human rights, which was due to convene on Tuesday.
“When I was in the middle of the crowd, two people came over to me and said, ‘There are people over there who we believe are policemen and who have been encouraging the crowd to throw things at the police,'” Brake said. His eyewitness account is corroborated by statements the MP has received from concerned members of the public, which were included in a draft report of his version of events which was due to be presented before the human rights committee.
One such statement, from photographer Tony Amos who was standing with protesters in the Royal Exchange between 5pm and 6pm affirmed that, “[one of the alleged officers] was egging protesters on. It was very noticeable. Then, suddenly, a protester seemed to identify him as a policeman and turned on him. He legged it towards the police line, flashed some ID and they just let him through, no questions asked. He was pretty much inciting the crowd. He could not be called an observer. I don’t believe in conspiracy theories but this really struck me. Hopefully, a review of video evidence will clear this up.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesman responded by stating: “We would never deploy officers in this way or condone such behaviour.” Brake says he intends to raise the matter with the Metropolitan Police’s Chief Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson during his next appearance before the home affairs select committee. “There is a logic having plain-clothes officers in the crowd, but no logic if the officers are actively encouraging violence, which would be a source of great concern,” added the MP for Carshalton and Wallington, South London.
Independent US-based news outlet Infowars.com was reporting on the possibility that agents provocateurs would be used by police to give the protests a violent edge on the day of the event. The majority of news coverage in the mainstream British press on the day following the largely peaceful demonstrations indeed hyped the level of violence.
Regular Guardian columnist George Monbiot observed in his blog on the afternoon of April 1st that, “The trouble-makers are out in force again. Dressed in black, their faces partly obscured, some of them appear to be interested only in violent confrontation. It’s almost as if they are deliberately raising the temperature, pushing and pushing until a fight kicks off. But this isn’t some disorganised rabble: these people were bussed in and are plainly acting in concert. There’s another dead giveaway. They are all wearing the same slogan: Police”.
Monbiot observed that police, “have a powerful interest in exaggerating threats and, perhaps, an interest in ensuring that sometimes these threats materialise. This could explain what I’ve seen at one protest after another, where peaceful demonstrations turn into ugly rucks only when the police attack. The wildly disproportionate and unnecessary violence I’ve sometimes seen the police deploy could scarcely be better designed to provoke a reaction.”
Tabloid newspapers were quick to characterise the protesters as a violent, unruly “rabble”, and few newspapers attempted to give the issues which motivated the demonstrations any serious coverage. An article which appeared on April 2nd in The Sun, the British newspaper with the largest daily readership, stated; “They pump fists and screech slogans at the patient policemen, whose attention is focused on the twitchy-looking youths with black bandanas tied around their faces to hide their identities. Outside the Bank of England, a cop’s riot shield is hit by a fiery projectile.”
The paper, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation which also owns The Times, British Sky Broadcasting and the Fox News Channel in the United States, qualified the demonstrations as “Rent-a-mob versus the Old Bill”, and stated that “Legitimate groups are here in vast packs, but many want a party-come-riot”.
Revelations of deliberate attempts by the police to coerce protesters into violence are likely to do little to repair the British public’s already tainted perception of the force following a string of recent disclosures that have done serious damage to public confidence.
On April 24th The Guardian reported that the police have an extensive network of “hundreds of informants” feeding them information from inside protest groups after an activist from the group Plane Stupid recorded a conversation in which officers from Strathclyde police attempted to recruit her as one such informant.
The same newspaper had reported just four days earlier that classified police information regarding an environmental demonstration had been passed by government officials from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) to private security officers working for German energy giant E.ON which administers a number of power plants in Britain.
Both of these stories followed the release of video footage that showed Ian Tomlinson, the man who died at the protests in the square mile on April 1st which he had not been taking part in, being violently forced to the ground by a Metropolitan police officer who had covered his face and was not wearing the required identification badges. Police had initially claimed that they had had “no contact” with Tomlinson, but were forced to retract this claim as it came to light that Tomlinson had been repeatedly turned away from police barricades which were forming a “kettle” around protesters prior to his assault by an as yet unnamed officer.
 G20 police ‘used undercover men to incite crowds’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/may/10/g20-policing-agent-provacateurs
 Agent Provocateur Riots Commence in London at G20, http://www.infowars.com/agent-provocateur-riots-commence-in-london-at-g20/
 G20 protests: Riot police, or rioting police?, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/apr/01/g20-policing-climate-protest-riot
 Rabble are real circus clowns, http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2356194.ece
 Police caught on tape trying to recruit Plane Stupid protester as spy, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/apr/24/strathclyde-police-plane-stupid-recruit-spy
 Secret police intelligence was given to E.ON before planned demo, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/apr/20/police-intelligence-e-on-berr
 Video reveals G20 police assault on man who died, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/apr/07/video-g20-police-assault