Scotland Yard was forced to pay more than £ 700,000 in compensation to 153 anti-fascist activists who were arrested by the police during a demonstration and detained for up to 14 hours.
The activists had been arrested while protesting another demonstration led by far-right activist Tommy Robinson.
The Met paid compensation totaling £ 729,000 in an out-of-court settlement after activists took legal action for their detention being unlawful. The legal claims of another 28 activists still need to be clarified.
Internal police documents, which were seen by the Guardian, show that two covert officials spied anti-fascist activists during the demonstration.
The couple infiltrated a group that had been arrested by the police and pretended to have arrested the covert officers so they could disappear, according to the files.
Kevin Blowe, the coordinator of the civil rights group The Network for Policing Monitoring, said the payoffs are huge. He criticized the deployment of the undercover officers and said, "Their role was to oversee a new and emerging anti-fascist movement – its size, structures, allies and prominent members."
The vicarious agents confirmed the compensation payments and added that they had settled the claims without allowing liability. The troops had to pay for the legal costs of the activists.
Payouts – nearly £ 5,000 on average – come from years of legal action by activists protesting against a march organized by the English Defense League (EDL) on September 7, 2013.
The EDL – headed by Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – was planning to march to a mosque in Tower Hamlets in East London. The antifascist activists opposed the march, arguing that Robinson and his followers intentionally wanted to provoke hate crimes in an area with a large Asian and Muslim population. EDL said it was his democratic right to march in the community.
The police had imposed restrictions on when and where both demonstrations could take place. The anti-fascist activists gathered for a counter-demonstration in a Whitechapel park to hear speeches, and then set off for their march.
At lunchtime, the police surrounded two groups of anti-fascist activists and imprisoned them, known as "kettling." The police said this was done to "prevent an impending violation of peace."
The activists said they are humiliated because they can not go to the bathroom for hours and should not get food or water. Later, they were taken to police stations in London and released, some in the middle of the night.
The police arrested 286 demonstrators under public law. The demonstrators had violated the conditions of the protest. The activists said they did not know the limitations of the protest. Only one person was subsequently prosecuted for sources with knowledge of the case.
The internal police records show that the two unidentified undercover officers have entered the group of activists held near the trade route. During the afternoon, the two were "arrested" in a trick and then released when they were out of sight of the group. The senior officers pointed out that the "extraction without incident" was carried out.
It is the latest documented use of covert officers to spy on political activists.
The troupe declined to explain the reasoning for the deployment of the officers. It said, "The assembly will neither confirm nor deny the deployment of covert officers during a particular event or mission. The covert nature of covert policing is central to its effectiveness. "
A public inquiry led by retired Judge Sir John Mitting investigates how covert officials have collected information on more than 1,000 political groups since 1968. The groups include anti-racist activists, environmentalists, left and right-wing groups.
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