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Who can police democracy?

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Lawful protest now viewed as “domestic extremism”

Despite my glowing praise for neighbourhood policing in South Tyneside yesterday, the national picture appears to be deteriorating at a worrying pace as police have set up a unit (under the nose of Lord Mandelson) within the building that houses the Department of Trade and Industry to spy on people who get involved with peaceful and lawful protests over single issues.

Those who take on fancy dress in festival type gatherings to protest about climate change, planning permissions, animal rights, or Fathers for Justice are likely to be photographed and have their names, addresses, nicknames or pseudonyms added to a database which cuts across all force areas to be shared by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) and covert intercepts are handled by a section of the NPOIU called the Confidential Intelligence Unit. Vehicles associated with protesters are being tracked via a nationwide system of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras.

NPOIU works in tandem with two other little-known Acpo branches, the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (Netcu), which advises thousands of companies on how to manage political campaigns, and the National Domestic Extremism Team, which pools intelligence gathered by investigations into protesters across the country.

Anton Setchell, who is in overall command of Acpo’s domestic extremism remit, said:

“Just because you have no criminal record does not mean that you are not of interest to the police. Everyone who has got a criminal record did not have one once.”

He also said that people who find themselves on the databases:

“should not worry at all”.

I suggest that they should worry greatly after reading statements like this, or when the UK police are involved in propping up the interests of commercial companies and gather intelligence to be used against people who wish to be involved in perfectly lawful peaceful gatherings to protest, just because someone has a troubled conscience and wishes to voice their concerns with other like minded people should NOT be an excuse to label them as a “domestic extremist”, rather than someone exercising their democratic rights.

The use of these so called “Big Brother” databases and the mechanisms for linking them together in a state sponsored apparatus has generated fears of a style of policing more akin to that operated by the East German Stasi, or Felix Dzerzhinsky’s NKVD, rather than the friendly face of neighbourhood policing that we yearn for. However, since the arrival of NuLabour in 1997 the growth of the database state has snowballed and millions now find themselves on government records with, in many cases, no warranty. Our personal guarantees over our privacy and protection of personal information have long since been ignored by government, we are watched, tracked in our vehicles, our children get added to the DNA database without committing crimes, they put microchips in our waste bins, we erect more CCTV cameras than other similar sized country in the world (the Shetlands have more cameras than the LAPD) and yet all we want is for the police to solve crime. We DO NOT want them to stifle permissible protest or debate!

In any great democracy one of the greatest strengths that government and people ought to use, is the ability to control the power of it’s police forces, without it democracy will be under increasing threat of survival. Someone, somewhere in government (and I hope Alan Johnson is listening – the last Home Secretary certainly was not) has to learn to police our police!

We do not need these Orwellian mechanisms which will be of profound use should any sinister form of government evolve sometime in the future, unless of course you believe that we already have sinister snooping spying government already.

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Written by curly

October 27, 2009 at 11:14 am

One Response

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  1. Well said Curly.

    rossinisbird

    October 27, 2009 at 4:56 pm


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