Bloomsbury Social Centre – which aimed to be a “hub of organising for students, workers and residents in the Bloomsbury area” – held regular reading groups, served food, provided a silent study space and workers rights info evenings. SO15 (Counter Terrorism Command) was born in 2006, when SO12 (Special Branch) and SO13 (Anti-Terrorist Branch) were merged. It claims to be committed to “ensure[ing] that London remains a hostile environment for terrorists.” and also polices so-called ‘domestic extremists’
According to a witness statement in the case to evict those occupying the building; “The police were concerned that the occupation might be linked to terrorist factions planning to infiltrate the march. The school was in contact late November with both the local Camden police and with Scotland Yard’s SO15 Division in connection with these concerns. Initially the police were keen to liaise with the School but their interest has waned recently. I assume that this is because they are satisfied that there is no or insufficient evidence linking the occupiers to any criminal activity of the sort they feared when the occupation commenced.”
Given that the statement is dated for December, we propose that this sudden drop in police interest probably had more to do with the passing of the strike day on November 30th. They knew there was no evidence linking the occupiers to terrorism all along. We propose that such baseless insinuations about the nature of both the occupied space and the strike day it sought to support served to further justify the Met’s presence on November 30th. Bloomsbury campus and environs were swamped with public order police, plainclothes cops and FIT working together to arbitrarily harass, assault and detain demonstrators. In the evening, the police were particularly heavy handed in their policing of a picket line at Birkbeck College; attacking pickets to usher in strikebreakers. All this in the name of showcasing Bernard Hogan-Howe’s new, tough, “total policing” agenda.
This information poses some important questions for the dissenting public:
With both domestic extremist and terrorist operations now ‘under one roof’ as it were, are the two terms now becoming interchangeable? ‘Domestic extremist’ is a notoriously nebulous catch-all term and has been used to describe anti-war activists, anti-capitalists, socialists, anarchists, environmentalists and anti-fascists to name but a few. Are those who take part in anti-cuts demonstrations, strike against pension reforms or occupy empty buildings now terrorists? For how long are we going to tolerate being criminalised for dissenting?
It’s time to smash total policing.