Friday, June 15, 2007

The men in black: the police contingent

/ agents / provocateurs /
Victor Grossman, writing about the protests during the recent G-8 summit, reconfirms that certain police tactics are world-wide standard procedure against demonstrators (as we had the chance to observe in the recent student unrest here in Greece):

"But something was funny about four members of the black-clad contingent. One of them, possibly the leader of the little group, wore a jacket with the red logo of a music group called 'Slip-Knot,' popular with globalization opponents. This was unusual, since the others avoided any details which would make them easily identifiable on police videos. And then, as the line of cops took up position nearby, ready to end the blockade, it was these four who started picking up stones from between the railroad tracks and lobbing them over towards the police and shouting, 'Get the bulls'! Then one of the other protesters took a good look at the young man with the logo before he had a chance to pull up his bandana mask.

'That's the same fellow who arrested me during a demonstration in Bremen last year!' he cried, and he and his friends made a grab for the four. Two of the four made it to police lines, one disappeared, but they caught the one with the red logo, presumably the leader. They did not treat him exactly gently, it must be admitted, but one of the group organizers took hold of the man, sheltering him from the crowd, and dragged him over and delivered him to the police line -- and safety."

This is the same type of actions that were reported in Genoa (2001):

A moderator of the Black Bloc meetings held in Genoa declarated "All the independent property I saw destroyed was done by police provocateurs and the police were being as confrontational as possible". (US3). Nevertheless, he sums up - among other actions - one which was evidently made by agents under cover (reported below): his group had come later on and unknowingly joined the provocateurs in their action. This supports the thesis that it is difficult - even for Black Bloc members - assess what was done by infiltrated agents...
... While the Black Bloc was involved in the attempt of defending Piazza Rossetti (where the peasants had their stands) and avoid the breaking of the rally (which eventually happened) I personally saw a group of "pseudo-Black Blocs" getting to Piazza Kennedy closely followed by a crew of video-operator. This is not in their style: the Black Bloc does not want to be object of cameras attention during their actions. The pseudo-Black Bloc pretended to destroy bank windows which had already been destroyed the day before.

Besides producing nice pictures of vandalic acts to be stigmatized on the press, the pseudo-Black Blocs were locating themselves in a strategic position: inbetween the advancing police and the rally. For, they were diverting the demonstrators' attention from the real danger. In fact, the police was coming up with the clear intention of attacking the rally, breaking the river of people in two parts - despite the attempt of resistance opposed by few groups, including true Black Blocs...

...In Miami (2003):

Police infiltraitors in Miami were photographed behind police lines during the Miami FTAA protests. There were also reports that some protesters were kidnapped off the streets, and that provocateurs dressed as Black Bloc participants and other demonstrators (with buttons , banners, ect.) used tasers on real demonstrators, and were seen trying to start fights...

... In Prague (2000):

The Citizens' Legal Patrol, or OPH, which had been monitoring and documenting legal rights' violations during the demonstrations surrounding the meetings of the IMF and the World Bank in Prague, has revealed materials allegedly pointing to the presence of police provocateurs among protestors. At a press conference on Wednesday, the group presented videos, eye-witness accounts and other materials documenting the violent activities of people who were later allegedly able to easily pass through police blockades upon showing identification. According to the group's spokesman, Marek Vesely, OPH is gathering evidence of such activities and will present it to the Interior Ministry for investigation.

... In Barcelona (2001):

"Reporters saw a group of men and women in masks gathered on the fringes of the demonstration in the park. Some wore earphones, and though carrying sticks they were able to walk freely past police, pull on their masks and position themselves between police and protesters.

"One man in the group grabbed another and pulled him to the ground, and other members of the group began kicking and slugging each other.

"When demonstrators saw what was going on and joined the fight, the police charged into the park. The masked men and women involved in the scuffle walked through the police line and boarded vans.

"A reporter asked one of them if they were police. He at first said yes, and then said no, before walking by police to the vans."

... In Oaxaca (2006):

Demonstrators have appeared on the radio to denounce the presence of “provocateurs” who say have been launching rockets and rocks at police, and trying to burn police buses.

...In Gothenburg (2001):

During actions of the weekend, police continuously escalated violence by attacking demonstrators with dogs and horses unprovoked. Some non-uniformed police provocateurs destroyed private property in order to discredit demonstrators. In Saturday 16th of June a group of masked police armed with submachineguns invaded another school in which people were staying, claiming to search "arms and terrorists" which they never found. Some demonstrators did involved themselves in fighting with police, but vast majority of the demonstrators were calm even when police behavior
was endangering their lives.

... In Gleneagles (2005):

Back on the coach, I found that the nice Scottish woman I had sat next to on the way up to Gleneagles had since turned into a Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown. I told her of something I had witnessed: a group of three people dressed like activists who were huddled round a CB communicating about positions in the field - almost definately police agent provocateurs. In turn she said that a cabbie had told her of having nervously picked up a group of 'scruffies', only to find that all of them had police badges. Given that the police will go to these lengths, protesters will have to show a lot more ingenuity than they have this week if they are to seriously disrupt summits in future.

And pretty much anywhere there is any sort of massive demonstration - a practice that isn't exactly new.


Renegade Eye said...

Thank you for this post.

The Republican Party will be having its convention near where I live. There may be 100,000 protesters there if the war in Iraq is hot.

I will send this post for my comrades to read. What you are writing is not a new idea, but it presents what we know in a good way.

Renegade Eye said...

I'm doing a post, linking to this post.

John Brown said...

Great post.

Extremely comprehensive. The connection between police infiltration of protests and their use of entrapment in "terrorism" cases shows how raw their tactics are.

talos said...

Renegade Eye: Thanks for the reference and good luck (or should I say courage) at the RNC demo.
(note that I'm not a journalist - just a politically active citizen)

John Brown: The interesting part is that this sort of "infiltrate and entrap", although quite probably illegal in most countries, is so widespread as a practice that one can imagine it being some sort of "international" police procedure. There are quite obvious reasons for this. And the "honest" black-blockers should at some point take note that the police often would have to invent them if they weren't there (as they indeed do).

Anonymous said...

Victor Grossman is still alive?


Well, damn. He's 79 years old, but still kicking.

-- I don't find the first linked article very compelling. Grossman is a wonderful writer, but he has, shall we say, credibility issues. This is Eric Honecker's "court jester" we're talking about.

In the generation after WWII, we saw a lot of former fascists reinvent themselves as "legitimate" conservative anti-Communist nationalists. In the generation after 1989, we're seeing a lot of former Brezhnevites reinvent themselves as left-libertarian anti-globalists. Plus ca change.

Doug M.

talos said...

Hi Doug!

Grossman is reporting on actual events that took place around Rostok (documented all over the web - see here for example). So the fact that he was a GDR apologist is kind of irrelevant : either the police showed up all dressed in black slpknot t-shirts and hoods or they didn't and the evidence is that they did. As for VG his is an interesting story. And I'm not sure about "reinventing" himself as left-libertarian: but anyway it's not that there are many options for people of his generation. They have to reinvent themselves somehow - reassess their lives. Some don't and some do. Among the latter some find political positions in the big parties and some look leftwards. VG would have a credibility issue if he suddenly became an CDU or SPD cadre. Which would allow him to persist in a modified stalinism that would continue to celebrate breaking protestors' heads and the cult of economism in a different guise. In fact it would be a worthwhile effort to track the evolution of CP cadres all over the Eastern Block. I'd wager that the majority has not turned left libertarian by any means...

Anonymous said...

Hi Talos!

Undercover policemen I have no doubt of.

Undercover policemen acting as agents provocateurs... maybe. Could be. I'd like to see stronger evidence, though.

More broadly, I'm pretty weary of the endless protesting at G-8 summits. Not talking about the violence, either. These things are not only accomplishing nothing; they are, from the progressive POV, actively unhelpful. This isn't 1968 or even 1989. New tactics are called for.

Grossman is reporting on actual events, but you'll notice the piece makes him sound like a first-hand close-up eyewitness to the scuffle. At age 79? Perhaps.

"VG would have a credibility issue if he suddenly became an CDU or SPD cadre."

Umm. The guy spent 40 years as a propagandist and apologist for the DDR. He could shave his head, convert to Buddhism and spend his days following the Dalai Lama around barefoot and he'd still have a credibility issue. 40 years of lies and lying: that's a hard habit to break.

"it would be a worthwhile effort to track the evolution of CP cadres all over the Eastern Block. I'd wager that the majority has not turned left libertarian by any means..."

Indeed not. Broadly speaking, the left-libertarian strain is common only in the more developed parts of the former Communist world -- former DDR, Hungary, Slovenia, places like that. For the rest of Eastern Europe, and almost all the former USSR, the standard transitions were Brezhnevite leader -> authoritarian nationalist and Brezhnevite nomenklatura -> crony capitalist.

The result was that in most places the same cadres stayed in power, with very little change. In fact, things got rather worse, since the former cadres now had not only control of the means of production, but legal ownership as well, and were no longer restrained by a veneer of Socialist decorum. The story of Eastern Europe since 1989 is to a great extent the story of the struggle to restrain or domesticate these savage elites.

Anyway. Victor, writes a nice para, but I wouldn't trust him to go down to the store and bring back change. I've spent too much time around former nomenklatura.

Doug M>

Duncan Money said...

That's a damn good post, very comprehensive account of the role of police. Someone should pick a few good examples and stick this on a leaflet.