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Youth Against Racism in Europe answers disgraceful Observer 'expose'
The disgraceful article in today's Observer (Undercover policeman reveals how he infiltrated UK's violent activists, 14 March 2010) claims to 'expose' how "an officer from a secretive unit of the Metropolitan police" was "working undercover among anti-racist groups in Britain, during which he routinely engaged in violence against members of the public and uniformed police officers to maintain his cover."
Lois Austin, YRE chair 1992-1996; Hannah Sell, YRE secretary 1992-1996
No one from The Observer contacted present or previous representatives of the anti-racist group he refers to, Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE) for our side of this story.
At the time we were secretary and chair of the YRE, which is a democratic organisation of young people.
Both supporters of the Militant Tendency (now the Socialist Party), we were elected to lead the YRE, which organised mass, peaceful protests against racism and in particular against the far-right thugs of the BNP and their ilk.
YRE began in 1992 with the largest ever European demonstration against racism, with 40,000 young people marching in Brussels.
During our campaigning, YRE often faced violence from the far-right and unfortunately also from the police.
We also warned of the danger of police and state infiltration of the left, which has now been proved to be correct, not just by this report but, also, in The Defence of the Realm - the Authorised History of M15, by Christopher Andrew, published in 2009.
Democratic and peaceful left wing organisations were infiltrated by the secretive and unaccountable forces of the state.
Ludicrously, the article refers to the undercover officer's "key success" being the discovery that the 1993 demonstration against the BNP's headquarters in Welling, South East London was going to be "far larger than thought".
This demonstration took place after four racist murders, including that of Stephen Lawrence, had taken place within two miles of the BNP Headquarters.
As organisers of the demonstration, we repeatedly told the police that it was going to be very large.
In the end it was 50,000 strong. We argued for the demonstration to be allowed to march peacefully past the BNP HQ. The response of the police, as the film on the Observer's website makes all too clear, was to refuse permission for the demonstration to march and then carry out an incredibly brutal attack on unarmed and peaceful young people who were carrying out their democratic right to protest against racism.
It is surely not a coincidence that this 'expose' has taken place now, at a time when a new generation of young people are becoming involved in campaigning against racism and the far-right BNP.
Yesterday, in Barking, where Nick Griffin is standing for parliament, Youth Fight for Jobs - an organisation of young people with the backing of trade unions, the YRE and the Socialist Party - marched under the same slogan we adopted in the early 1990s - 'Jobs and Homes not Racism'.
The Observer would do better to report this kind of anti-racist campaigning rather than attempt to smear the movement which successfully marginalised the BNP in the early 1990s.