A Black Lives Matter activist claims a covert police unit used ‘distressing’ tactics to try and recruit her to become a mole.
Lowri Davies alleges that officers in South Wales spent an hour-and-a-half trying to manipulate her into providing information about the movement and its protests, and whether the far-right could cause violence at anti-racist demonstrations.
She was also urged not to tell anyone about the recruitment attempt as officers checked that her phone was switched off so should could not record the meeting.
The rendezvous took place ‘where nobody is going to see you with us’ and involved Miss Davies being driven around Swansea, in which she was asked about her family and told she’d be rewarded for providing them with certain information.
However, a recording of an initial phone conversation between her and an officer shared with the Guardian now appears to be the first public evidence that police have tried to approach an informant within the BLM movement.
Lawyers have submitted a complaint to the force on her behalf after the experience, which she described as ‘incredibly frightening and distressing’, and had a traumatic effect on her mental health.
A Black Lives Matter protest march going through Regent Street in London in June last year
South Wales Police at the scene of a protest outside Cardiff Bay police station earlier this year
Miss Davies, a law student in her early 20s, told the paper: ‘If the police are so against racism, like they say that they are, then why are they trying to get informants from groups that are saying that racism is bad?
‘If they believed that, they would not be asking me to be an informant, they would be saying ‘we really support the work you do’ and would leave me alone.’
Frank Matthews, a former Scotland Yard detective who recruited informants for 25 years, added that her suspicion was well founded.
He said: ‘Why would you approach a Black Lives Matter activist for information about the far right? It does not make sense.’
The revelations will pile more pressure on police amid what some consider to be unjustified surveillance of political groups engaged in protests.
A recently public inquiry into undercover policing pledged to ‘get to the truth’ and make known the full facts about tactics used by police spies over decades.
Kat Hobbs, a spokesperson for Network for Police monitoring, a civil liberties group which has investigated how BLM protests have been policed, told MailOnline: ‘Lowri is incredibly brave for coming forward after police attempted to recruit her as an informant.
‘Given the police response to the growing power of the BLM movement, it’s likely that many more people have faced this kind of intimidation and this may be just tip of the iceberg.
‘For South Wales Police to target a non-violent community group protesting two recent deaths in police custody is shocking, but sadly not surprising – Black-led groups, including families who have lost loved ones, have many times been the target of intrusive police surveillance aimed at shutting down resistance to police violence and racism.
‘Particularly stinging in this case is the police’s cynical promise to take action against local far-right counter protesters in exchange for information on the activities of the group.
‘Netpol’s report on the policing of the Black Lives Matter movement highlighted once again the systemic racism of the UK police response, and among the catalogue of failures the police’s willingness to protect and facilitate counter-protests, including where BLM protesters faced physical violence from the far right, stands out.’
Police at the scene of a protest in front of Winston Churchill’s statue in London last summer
A spokesman for the force which was said to have approached Miss Davies told MailOnline: ‘South Wales Police will neither confirm nor deny any specific details in relation to this matter.
‘A complaint has been received which refers to contact made by a covert officer. This is currently being considered by the force’s Professional Standards Department and therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.
‘The use of informants is a well-established and highly regulated tactic used by police forces across the country to protect the public. Their use is controlled within strict legal parameters by trained specialised staff and the accountability and protection of the informant and the public is paramount.
‘Protest organisers have an obligation to liaise with police forces and South Wales Police has a proven track record in working with organisers to facilitate lawful protest while minimising disruption to the wider public.’
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