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WE ALL know Sarah Everard’s name now. For the very worst of reasons.
Sarah’s death has unmasked a terrifying reality. The suspect is a serving Metropolitan Police officer, Wayne Couzens, a firearms officer deployed in the elite diplomatic and royal protection squad.
This week, we have witnessed an outpouring of sorrow for Sarah and a mass outcry that the people entrusted to protect women from violence are the perpetrators of misogynistic abuse.
The Conservative government’s response has been to immediately increase police powers, in the most terrifying way, rushing the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill through Parliament.
The second reading of this draconian Bill on March 15 was against the backdrop of an unprecedented uproar over police abuse of power, and the next stage of the Bill has now been delayed until June 24.
The women who turned out at a peaceful solidarity vigil at Clapham Common experienced police brutality first hand.
In extraordinary scenes that have shocked the public, women attending the vigil were manhandled and intimidated by the police.
Women coming together in their collective grief were met with male violence.
Perhaps if they had been football supporters, drunkenly rampaging through the streets of Glasgow, they would be escorted by the police to continue their party by destroying memorial benches in George Square.
Or if they had been statues of slave owners they would be protected by an armed guard.
This week has presented us with the terrible truth of a society mired in sexism, misogyny, and patriarchal violence.
It is inevitable that some people will try to pass Couzens off as just a bad apple. But the police simply cannot rely on this tired excuse.
Last year, two Metropolitan Police officers were arrested after allegations they took and shared selfies from the scene where sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman were found stabbed to death.
Another Metropolitan Police officer, who was part of the investigation into Sarah Everard’s murder, has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, after he shared inappropriate material on social media.
I am a member of the campaign group Police Spies Out of Lives, which supports women affected by undercover police abuses.
We know of more than 50 women who were deceived into long-term, intimate relationships by undercover police officers, members of the secretive Metropolitan political policing units.
Some 250 officers spied on more than 1,000 political groups since the formation of the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) in 1968.
The SDS was disbanded in 2006, when the NPIOU (National Public Order Intelligence Unit) took up the mantle.
These undercover spies often formed relationships with women as part of their “tradecraft,” concealing their true identities with the help of state-produced fake ID such as driving licences and passports.
I was deceived into a long-term intimate relationship by the SDS officer Carlo Soracchi (“Neri”).
We met in London in September 2002, at an anti-war demonstration.
Soracchi was a steward on the march, alongside friends who were trade union activists and anti-racist campaigners.
He left me after two years in the cruellest way, stating that he had suicidal feelings following child abuse revelations in his family.
He feigned a mental health breakdown as an exit strategy. I only discovered the scandalous truth about his deployment in 2015.
I have since learned a great deal about the full extent of abuse by the police in this country.
The new Police and Crime Bill has been presented as an attempt to radically overhaul the justice system, cut offending rates and make the streets safer for us all.
Under current laws police are only able to place restrictions on protests if there is a threat of “serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community.”
This new legislation pertaining to the policing of non-violent protests stems from the Met’s inability to contain actions such as those carried out by Extinction Rebellion, who effectively ground London to a halt in 2019.
The government essentially wants to undermine movements such XR and Black Lives Matter.
And they want to stop women like us from raising awareness, and from standing up to institutional sexism and state-sponsored abuse.
The new Bill includes the crime of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance.”
The intention is to prevent any dissent from happening. Criminalising protest means that any one of our actions could lead to 10 years in jail, for causing serious annoyance, economic harm. Put simply, for being an activist.
Many of us targeted by these sinister secret police have campaigned for years to get answers, trying to understand why we were the recipients of state-sanctioned abuses.
Among the wider group of people affected by abusive undercover policing there are blacklisted construction workers, miners from the 1984-5 strike, trade union activists, family justice campaigners, environmental activists, as well as the women like me, who were deceived into long-term sexual relationships.
We have been fighting long and hard, collectively, for truth, justice and disclosure.
The more public pressure is felt by those under scrutiny, the more likely it is that we will achieve some justice.
If we are unable to peacefully protest, how can we raise awareness of this enormous anti-democratic scandal?
They are trying to get away with covering up their wrongdoing and believe no-one is scrutinising them, or that nobody cares.
Taking away our right to protest will allow our abusers to continue violating the human rights of others. This is a dangerous time to be an activist.
For more info please see policespiesoutoflives.org.uk.
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