GENTECH archive


brit spy network

But, of course, while the brit police wish to target farmers "planning
supermarket blockades and political marches ", they couldn't possibly be
thinking of also targetting folks who plan to disrupt GM seed experiments,
or even to make political statements about anything, could they ?

London Sunday Times   November 8 1998 BRITAIN
   Police spy on protest farmers 
   SENIOR police officers have set up a spy network to target farmers
   suspected of planning supermarket blockades and political marches.
   In an echo of the 1984 miners' dispute, police chiefs have requested
   intelligence reports on "rebel" farmers suspected of picketing and
   other direct action against supermarkets selling imported meat.
   The disclosure comes as farmers protesting at the collapse of
   livestock prices plan sit-ins at restaurants serving foreign beef.
   A confidential intelligence report seen by The Sunday Times requests
   that police and civilian support staff in rural areas write up
   briefings betraying "overheard conversations" from farmers who could
   be their family, friends or neighbours.
   The police document - marked "sensitive material" - states: "It now
   seems probable that the farmers' dispute will become protracted and
   the level of action taken will escalate." It requests information from
   local police on "any apparent meeting or congregation of farmers".
   The report wants people to detail "any demonstrations; any
   conversation overheard relating to forthcoming action; any suspected
   movement of farmers' vehicles; any information from unusual sources .
   . . the Internet, CB radio". It even spells out how to compile the
   information: "Remember to include the . . . time, date, exact
   location, direction of travel, vehicle registration numbers, how many,
   what was said."
   The document reflects a shift in police tactics. Previously farmers
   had been shown sympathy by police in rural areas as they protested
   against imported food and plunging food prices.
   The new tactics have been condemned by farmers' leaders. Richard
   Macdonald, director-general of the National Farmers Union, said: "The
   crisis in farming is catastrophic. These people have a legitimate
   right to try to protect their livelihoods."
   Monmouthshire farmer Rhys Parry, of the pressure group Farmers in
   Crisis, said: "I am amazed by the memo. It appears almost comic. But
   it has sinister overtones as though they are trying to make out we are
   public enemy number one. We have heard they have received orders to
   treat this like the miners' dispute."
   The aggressive new tactics were defended by Joan Webster, assistant
   chief constable of Gwent police. Webster's Force Intelligence Bureau
   issued circulars to nearly 2,000 police, special constables and
   civilian staff on September 25.
   "That's a confidential document," she said. "I don't deny that there
   would have been an intelligence gathering operation. It's no different
   from neighbourhood watch. There's nothing too sinister or subversive
   about that."
   Webster said she believed other forces may have set up similar
   intelligence networks.
   Since last winter "rebel" farmers' groups have blockaded food
   distribution centres owned by the main supermarket chains in Wales and
   the West Country. Some rural forces such as Cheshire, Avon and
   Somerset and Gloucestershire regard the rebels as a potential threat
   and have stepped up their intelligence-gathering. Others, such as
   Sussex, say they have asked Special Branch to monitor the situation.
   Brian Thomas, of Farmers in Crisis, said: "I suspect police officers
   may be infiltrating the dispute and I believe a detective has been put
   on my case. I have spoken to Dyfed Powys police about my phone being
   bugged but they have denied it."
   Farmers began their dispute last November by throwing Irish burgers
   into the dock at Holyhead. Since then hundreds of ordinarily peaceful
   farmers have been drawn into action because of falling incomes.
   Ministers are so concerned about such action that they hope to
   announce a package of aid before farmers demonstrate outside
   parliament on November 18. Some 50m is thought to be available from a
   European Union scheme to compensate livestock farmers.
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