Occupy London in cahoots with coppers

Far from being enemies of the state, the St Paul’s occupiers are helping the police arrest political undesirables.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics

Now that they have been afforded the kind of heavy-handed state protection normally only enjoyed by PMs and monarchs, will Occupy London finally ditch the pretence of radicalism?

On Friday, the Metropolitan Police raided a pub in central London and arrested 179 members of the right-wing, anti-immigrant group the English Defence League (EDL), on the basis that they were planning to attack the occupiers outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Such state action – the mass, pre-emptive arrest of suspected political troublemakers – echoes the extraordinary measures taken when the queen visited Northern Ireland during her Silver Jubilee in 1977, when 400 Irish republicans were rounded up and thrown in jail, ‘just in case’. Occupy London is now not only flattered by newspaper editors, fawned over by politicians and worshipped by church officials; it is also surrounded by a repressive police forcefield. Never has a supposedly radical movement enjoyed such state and media approval.

Following Friday’s arrests, it seems pretty clear that far more repression has been carried out in the name of protecting Occupy London than in the name of attacking it. The occupiers cry ‘police brutality!’ if a nearby copper so much as raises his voice at them, but they have been subjected to nothing like what was experienced by the EDL on Friday. Bringing to life Philip K Dick’s warnings of ‘precrime’, the EDL supporters were arrested on the basis that they might have been thinking about doing something dodgy. Yet the evidence against them was alarmingly flimsy.

Apparently some of them had Facebooked and tweeted about having a punch-up at St Paul’s. Yet as those part-time libertarians who rushed to the aid of that bloke arrested for tweeting about blowing up Robin Hood airport in Nottingham should know, what people say on social-networking sites and what they do in real life are often very different things. Whatever you think of the EDL (I am far from a fan), it seems pretty clear that its supporters were arrested for committing a tweetcrime, the modern-day equivalent of Orwell’s thoughtcrime, where you’re nicked for what lurks inside your head rather than for anything you’ve done in the real world.

Perhaps the most startling thing about Friday’s mass arrest of political activists who had not committed any crimes is that many St Paul’s occupiers supported it; more than that, they appear to have assisted it. That is, some of them aided and abetted an intolerant police assault on ‘political undesirables’. One occupier said of the police, ‘It is fantastic if they are using their resources to try and stop people getting to this site’. He said that at Occupy London’s ‘general assembly’ earlier in the day, the occupiers had been made aware of an allegedly chilling EDL statement, in which ‘they called us all sorts of names’. It speaks volumes about the sense of entitlement amongst these media-flattered middle-class occupiers that they believe mass arrests are an appropriate response to their being called names.

Even worse, on Facebook some occupiers are boasting about having informed the police of the EDL’s alleged intentions. We used to call this ‘grassing’. An administrator on an Occupy London FB page says, ‘I and some friends aided in the arrests’. Anonymous, the weirdo, Assange-ite computer-hacking group, has warned EDL supporters that they will be squealed up to the cops again if they even think about trying to undermine Occupy London. Shamelessly displaying its pro-state tendencies, it declared: ‘Anonymous will use its social contacts, including police authorities [and] government personnel… to ensure that you pay for your actions.’

There you have it. Occupy London and its backers pose as radicals, as edgy and free-spirited creatures, yet they are happy to join forces with the police to harry and punish and censure their political opponents. The occupiers are not enemies of the state – they come across more like a ramshackle arm of the state, providing the state with information and cheering its assaults on people who have opposing political beliefs. Their relationship with the cops is not unlike that between obedient citizens and the Stasi in the GDR: they keep a watchful eye on the tweeting antics of right-wing groups and grass them to the authorities as and when necessary. You have been warned: do not mock or insult Occupy London on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere else, or you, too, might find its friends in the Met knocking on your door.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked. Visit his personal website here.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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