An Occupier’s Perspective: The police, the press & the corporations
Occupier Steve Rushton, who has been involved since late October camping at OccupyLSX, submitted the letter below to the Leveson Enquiry. You can submit entries here. Steve is currently writing a PhD criticising Neoliberalism from an indigenous perspective. From Southampton, Steve has also provided legal support to Dan Ashman as part of the OccupyLSX legal case – for which judgement will be delivered tomorrow.
If other occupiers would like to submit a personal view for publication on the website, please email email@example.com.
Dear Lord Justice Leveson,
I would like to draw your attention to the relationship between the police and the press, with regards to OccupyLSX since the 15th October 2011. A vast proportion of the press output suggests the police’s agenda is to serve the political interests of business elites and government. Furthermore, many articles suggest there is a systematic or institutionalised agenda within the force to discredit a movement that aims to engender an equitable, socially just and ecologically sustainable alternative on behalf of all the people. This letter relates to Bundle 2 of you inquiry: points 3, 6, 10 and especially 11.
Evidence suggests the police have wilfully acted in a political manner to negatively distort the image of Occupy, with the complicity of parts of the press who share this political aim. This especially relates to the City of London Police; there is evidence they are acting directly for the interests and possibly under direction or duress of multinational corporations, banks and elites who are the dominant power within the City of London Corporation.
This evidence includes:
- The Terrorism/ Extremism update for the City of London Business Community: dated 2nd December, sent out by the City of London Police, this defines OccupyLSX as terrorists/ extremists in a list alongside Al Qaeda. It reports that, ‘London Police have received a number of hostile reconnaissance reports concerning individuals who fit the Anti-Capitalist profile.’ It encourages ‘any encounters with suspected activists should be recorded and then uploaded or live-streamed to the internet,’ also that ‘suspected hostile reconnaissance should be reported to the City of London Police immediately.’ This report is available in full and verified in its authenticity by The Independent.[i] A spokesman on behalf of the City of London Police is commented, that the “City of London police works with the community to deter and detect terrorist activity and crime in the City in a way that has been identified nationally as good practice. We’ve seen crime linked to protests in recent weeks, notably around groups entering office buildings, and with that in mind we continue to brief key trusted partners on activity linked to protests.” This level of “partnership,” between the City of London Corporation and the sponsorship that engenders this relationship directly from the Multinational corporations, will be discussed later in this letter.
- Further to this there have been over-exaggerated, unverified or misleading press-statements that negatively report about OccupyLSX with connection to alleged instances of crime. This issue was examined in the recent court proceedings, brought by the City of Londonin their attempt to evict OccupyLSX. This was also reported in the Guardian, St Paul‘s protesters accuse police of inflating crime figures. Their allegations include a potato crisp that was thrown, although in court it was revealed that there was no victim who reported the crime and the person who threw the crisp was not identified, let alone identified as an occupier. This case however was reported as assault and battery.
Further unsubstantiated allegations include:
- A story in The Sun; they reported that only one in ten tents was occupied, this was apparently based on, “Images collected by a police helicopter’s thermal imaging camera.” From personal experience these allegations have no bearing in reality, and this story validity was removed swiftly by demonstrating the heat imaging equipment that the police used. This can be verified with a video available on line.[ii]
- An allegation that was made in The Times by an unnamed source. This seems to be making unsubstantiated claims of apparent criminals or maybe troublemakers, which the police are reporting, that when they are there they do not see. This report also suggests that the police were leaking information via the City of London Corporation eviction legal team:
“City of London police said the approach was still to “facilitate peaceful protest”, and declined to comment on intelligence, but a source close to the eviction proceedings told The Times that officers were aware of “one or two” troublemakers or criminals who had tried to, or managed to, infiltrate OccupyLSX. “One of the problems with any kind of camp is that other forces move into it,” the source said. “There are people who disappear into tents when police are around, or operate on the periphery.”[iii] I am unsure whether this type of nonsensical speculation can be considered as newsworthy.
- In another story, The Daily Mail claimed “Two weeks ago, the City of London Corporation installed ‘sharps bins’ for hypodermic needles after police found addicts’ paraphernalia scattered around the tents.” The evidence from the City of London Police was rigorously presented and cross-examined during the eviction court case in the Royal Courts of Justice; and this evidence was not mentioned in the 5 days of the trial.[iv] This suggests it was a spurious allegation without basis, or that it was fabricated; the question of who leaked this type of allegation within the police and what their agenda is, is also an interesting point.
- A further point, I would like to bring your honour’s attention to, is the misleading nature of City of London Police press statements. An example of this is their denial that they kettled protestors at the beginning of OccupyLSX’s presence, this evidence was also extensively discussed within the recent court case. After cross-examination by OccupyLSX and the litigants in person Justice Lindblom also asked Mr Zuba, who was a witness from the City ofLondon Police, to explain the use of this tactic to suppress protests. The denial of this, to the papers in the days afterwards, leads to questions about the integrity of their press department in discussing the reality of events.
The allegiances of the City of London Police can be drawn into sharp question, not least by their decisions concerning the policing arrangements for OccupyLSX. In a press statement, on the 2nd of November, the City of London Police stated, “The City of London Police has now taken sole responsibility for the protest in St Paul’s Churchyard.”[v]
This timing, a day before the City of London Corporation served eviction orders that called for an eviction the subsequent day, on the 3rd of November, appears to blur the line between the police and the authority that was proceeding with legal action. It also alludes to the potential ties with the Corporations and multinational banks, even suggesting they are working under the control of big-business. This legal action was initiated by The City of London Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee, whose members include:
- Roger Gifford, chairman of the Association of Foreign Banks, which represents all foreign banks based in London.
- John White, an international banker who previously held a senior position at Lehman Brothers and recently retired as a senior executive at one of the US’s largest banking groups, the Toronto-Dominion Bank Financial Group.
- Tom Hoffman, a veteran international and investment banker;
- Oliver Lodge, a long standing City professional with experience in investment management and regulation of the investment industry;
- James Pollard of asset manager Invesco Perpetual;
- Paul Judge, a former director general of the Conservative party, who now chairs Schroder Income Growth Fund.
- John Spanner, a former City professional who was head of group procurement at Standard Chartered Bank’ Robert Howard, who has worked in the City since 1993 at Charles Stanley & Co, one of Britain’s largest independent private client stockbroking and investment management firms
- Alan Yarrow, chair of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment and also of the wealth management group Kleinwort Benson.
- Ian Seaton, who worked in financial public relations before becoming master of one of the City of London’s ancient trade associations,
- Sophie Fernandes, an account director at Bellenden, which counts Canary Wharf Group among its clients.
The electoral structure of this council committee, as is the case with most of the City of London Corporation, disproportionally counts votes greatly in the favour of elites and corporate interests and is not democratically structured in the way other local authorities are. The only people to vote against this decision, on this committee, were the two councillors who represent residents that live within the City of London Corporation’s “square mile” and not companies.[vi]
The City of London Police, the City of London Corporation, the Multinational companies, banks, financial institutions and the Home Office have further links and shared agendas:
- The City of London Police are paid by and work for two bosses; in their figures from their website they state that in 2010-11, they received £26,616,000 directly from the government, £6,135,000 from other grants contributions and reimbursements and £1,711,000 from customers and client receipts.[vii] A great deal of the City of London Police’s non-Governmental sources of revenue is from big-business and financial institutions.
- The Home Secretary Theresa May would like to scrap the Human Rights Act, which includes the right to protest.[viii] The Home Secretary’s biographical website states, “She started her career at the Bank of England and went on to hold posts at the Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS) as Head of the European Affairs Unit from 1989-1996, and Senior Adviser on International Affairs between 1996-97.” She also publicly stated how she wishes to see an end to OccupyLSX.
- Corporations last year sponsored the British Government £2 billion. [ix]
In a previous statement I made to the Leveson inquiry I asserted how the elites can create consent using the media. I included a paragraph about the anti-fascist Italian political philosopher Antonio Gramsci. He asserted that elites in a society suppress a population and control them through engendering common sense, which means they consent to behaving in the manner desired to maintain the status-quo. He asserts this is done through media, within education and through religious institutions. Within Gramsci theory, he also states that a fascist state also uses the power of force. This force includes the police and their political agenda, which is controlled by the dominant elites.
Although I include this critique of Fascist Italy, I am not making a direct link, just a comparison of some of the dominant forces that look to act in their own interests and maintain, uphold and prolong the status quo, or balance of convenience.
I believe protests are an intrinsic aspect within a functioning society to check and balance democracy. A police force must fulfill a difficult role, in managing people’s legitimate rights to protest as set out under Article 11 of the European Convention.
I would like to pay a personal compliment to many within the City of London and Metropolitan Police forces for the humanity and decency they have demonstrated in positive interactions I have had with them when I have visited London and at OccupyLSX. Equally, these people, working within their role should not be subverted by the interests of any particular group, with any political agenda especially those with excessive monetary power and parliamentary responsibilities.
I hope the following letter is helpful with your inquiry. If you require further information I am more than to willing assist with any follow up inquiries you may have, including opening all channels of communication with other occupiers.
[ii] 9 in 10 protest tents ‘are empty’, Neil Millard, The Sun, 25 Oct 2011, http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3892587/9-in-10-protest-tents-are-empty.html
Occupy London”empty tents” claim exposed as bogus, George Eaton, New Statesman, 28 Oct 2011, http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/10/thermal-imaging-empty-tents
[iii] Cathedral staff fear peaceful camp may be infiltrated by violent activists, Ruth Gledhill , Ruth Maclean and Fay Schlesinger, The TImes , October 30 2011, http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/faith/article3210648.ece
[iv] A very seedy Christmas at St Paul’s: An ugly scene of hard drugs, violence and corruption among protesters, Tom Rawstorne, Daily Mail, 16th December 2011, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2074807/A-seedy-Christmas-St-Pauls-An-ugly-scene-hard-drugs-violence-corruption-protesters.html#ixzz1icUK42b9”
[v] City of London Police: press release section, dated 2nd November, 2011 http://www.cityoflondon.police.uk/CityPolice/Media/News/141011-weekendprotest.htm
[vi] St Paul’s holy smokescreen lifts to reveal true battlefield, Ben Quinn, Wednesday 2 November 2011 , @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/nov/02/st-pauls-anti-corporate-elite-the-city?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487
[viii] Home Secretary: scrap the Human Rights Act, Patrick Hennessy, The Telegraph 01 Oct 2011, @ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8801651/Home-Secretary-scrap-the-Human-Rights-Act.html
It was also voiced by Paul Flynn, The Labour MP for Newport West, in a Commons Debate concerning Parliamentary Lobbying, Westminster Hall, Parliament, 2 Nov 2011, available @ http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm111102/halltext/111102h0001.htm