Brit MP saw undercover cops egging crowd to riot at G20

A British Member of Parliament claims he saw two undercover cops acting as agents provocateurs at the G20 demonstrations, attempting to get the crowd to riot. It was during one of the "kettling" sessions (this is a tactic used by UK cops wherein all protesters and bystanders are crammed into a physical space that is cordoned off indefinitely, and though the protesters are not charged with any offense, they are not allowed to leave, seek medical care, use toilets, etc). The men apparently threw missiles at the cops and tried to get others to do the same, then, after being accused of being provocateurs, flashed credentials at the police and passed through their lines.
"When I was in the middle of the crowd, two people came over to me and said, 'There are people over there who we believe are policemen and who have been encouraging the crowd to throw things at the police,'" Brake said. But when the crowd became suspicious of the men and accused them of being police officers, the pair approached the police line and passed through after showing some form of identification.

Brake has produced a draft report of his experiences for the human rights committee, having received written statements from people in the crowd. These include Tony Amos, a photographer who was standing with protesters in the Royal Exchange between 5pm and 6pm. "He [one of the alleged officers] was egging protesters on. It was very noticeable," Amos said. "Then suddenly a protester seemed to identify him as a policeman and turned on him. He ­legged it towards the police line, flashed some ID and they just let him through, no questions asked."

G20 police 'used undercover men to incite crowds'


  1. I wonder how they knew the two guys were police.

    I’m glad the MP has gone to trouble of reporting this fully and not just leaving it as hearsay.

    Even if completely true, the Met will likely say these were off-duty officers trying to start some hippy bashing.

  2. I’m certain the British government will look into the matter and punish those guilty of wrongdoing.

  3. @#1 Felix: They knew they were police because they were acting as agents provocateurs. Dead give-away. The ID thing just confirmed it.

    What might be interesting is if photos of them surface.

  4. @Hershmire: lol

    Humans can’t police themselves without trying to destroy those who they think are going to cause trouble. Is it impossible to really police correctly?

  5. @3 Church;

    It could be I’m just dumb, but if I saw two guys being especially provocative it wouldn’t even occur to me they might be plain clothed po-pos. Then again, maybe these two were really obvious about it.

    I wonder if Tom Brake MP had the temptation to march to the front of the kettle and flash his House of Commons ID to get out.

  6. Google has an informational hole — the term ‘kettling’ re: police crowd restraint seems to only appear in boingboing posts. I tried to find out more information about this tactic, and found bupkiss.

    I look forward to the public confirmation of agents provocateurs, if such were used.

  7. RE#1: Generally – protesters are young, skinny, bearded and have long hair. Cops tend to be large, clean shaven, and old. If old, large, guys start throwing stuff at COPS – my general reaction is they are provocateurs.

    Watch the video of those COPS caught in Montebello last year, they’re both like 6 inches taller than anyone else in the crowd.

  8. Inaccurate headline. It sounds like the MP didn’t see the provocation himself, he heard about it second-hand, and only directly witnessed the men passing through police lines. The man who’s quoted as having see the men throwing things is a different person.

  9. “Family men” have been common in the UK for years. They are pretty obvious, but the problem becomes what to do to deal with them? Ask them to leave and they won’t, ask them not to chuck rocks at people and they won’t. Wanna try moving them from the group at large without getting the riot-squad pouring down on your ass? Good luck.

    Even just ignoring and removing self from them doesn’t work: it’s not like their presence is a surprise to the have-a-go bobbies.

  10. This is great news, now maybe people will finally believe the reality that there really are provocateurs that show up to protests and cause havoc in order to disrupt and discount peaceful protests.

  11. how much more of this can we stand?

    i am convinced that with the fall of the Soviet Union, we (the West) have adopted their police state tactics, there is no one left to point the finger at and say our system is more “free” except the Taliban.

    police are the same any where you go, so are good but mostly it they share a common psychology that seeks power.

    today outside the Bronx zoo i saw four guys in a black Impala, unmistakenly, undercover cops, yet they have the same vibe as “henchmen-mafia-badguys” thugs would work as well

  12. This doesn’t sound at all unfamiliar. My friend who grew up in Moldova and is in the US for an academic year responded to my question on her thoughts of what’s happening in Moldova. I was shocked to hear that some of the protesters had been given drugs – I hadn’t heard anything about this from the national media. From our conversation:

    Moldova was always known as a “peaceful” country and now : BOOM out of sudden all this happens. It is believed that all this was organized by the outside forces (some blaim Rusia, and others blaim Romania). The students were given drugs and they destroyed everything in their way. It’s really embarssing, sad and just awfull what happened.
    Well, I hope the spirits will calm down in the near future and the stabilization will be brought into the country again.

  13. @Felix: You really didn’t look hard enough. The Wikipedia entry comes up as result #2 in a search for “kettling”.

    And for the record, this was a police line that was letting nobody through, not even journalists. It’s quite exceptional that these guys got through, and very strongly suggests that this was because they were police.

  14. Felix Mitchell @5 It could be I’m just dumb, but if I saw two guys being especially provocative it wouldn’t even occur to me they might be plain clothed po-pos. Then again, maybe these two were really obvious about it.

    Speaking from my personal experience with plainclothes/undercover agents, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were being really obvious about it. When I visited the USA last Christmas, I had an air marshal overtly following me on my domestic flights. I don’t know if he was even trying to blend in. If I hadn’t been expecting it, I would have gone to airport security and reported the creepy guy who followed my young daughter and me to the bathroom.

  15. photograph them extensively the moment you become suspicious.

    alternately steal their credentials and watch the hilarity ensue as they try getting out saying

    “we really are police officers, honest guv”

  16. Ahem. At the risk of invoking Godwin, I should mention (noted on the WP talk page for Kettling, but not included in the article as of yet), that one of the first usages of the word “Kettling” to describe this tactic was by Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland. Those occupying several ghettos were forced into a far smaller ghetto for the purposes of registration. Reference here.

    Of course, the situations differ enormously in degree – in the kettling described there, 2648 Jews were shot during the process.

    Indeed, “kesselschlacht” (cauldron battle) is the German military term for a battle involving an encirclement of one side by the other. It’s quite likely that “kettle” came from “kessel” through homophony, rather than correct translation. (I guess the derived verb “kettling” sounds better than “cauldroning”.)

  17. I figure police basically do this in many western countries:

    1. Show up to a protest dressed as protestors.

    2. Encourage protestors to start breaking stuff. Police themselves probably throw a garbage can through a window every now and then.

    3. Other police, now seeing that “the crowd” has turned “violent” (ie, they set a garbage can on fire), now disperse the crowd through violent means.

    We’ve got to start identifying these kinds of cops and dragging them through the court system. Take video and automatically upload it to the internet such that confiscating a camera is useless.

  18. Part 1 of 2

    If you are at a civil protest and anybody else tells or encourages you to do anything violent or illegal, they are probably a cop.

    People who get violent at protests are usually one of two people;
    1. impassioned, frustrated, normal people who lash out in fury – in reaction to police actions,
    2. the Black Bloc.

    Hyper emotional people aren’t likely to be looking for support, they just lash out. And the Black Bloc don’t give a fuck about you, and aren’t there to encourage others by anything other than example. They are not about telling anyone to do anything they are not doing themselves.

    The problem with this sort of thing at these kind of protests (ie. the anti-capitalist sort), is that there are so many disparate and unconnected causes and ideologies, that it is very hard to get enough similarly affectable people in close proximity to get a good rabble-rousing-chain-reaction going.

    More likely, when someone starts shouting for other people to do violent things, is that the individuals (who are generally protesting “control” in one form or another), will wonder what all this ordering-about business is and get suspicious. Either they will call them out as a cop, or think, “what a mouthy prat, let’s watch him get truncheoned”.

    Where agent provocateurs work best is in long-standing, entrenched disputes that affect the money in people’s pocket or directly affect their quality of life, and where there are very clear sides to play off each other; like union strikes, or race/religion problems, (Northern Ireland, for example).

    Encouragement to violence at an anti-capitalist protest == Cops

  19. Part 2 of 2

    In getting my sources for this comment, I noticed that a number of articles that were online at the time, seem to have disappeared. Other websites still have the quoted content and unfollowable links. But I will add George Galloway’s letter in its entirety.

    This is not the first time this has happened in the UK, in recent times. At the anti-Bush protests in June of 2008, a journalist for the Daily Mail, Yasmin Whittaker-Khan, and George Galloway MP both saw the same man at the protests dressed in protester-garb and encouraging a clash between protesters and police.

    The journalist knew the identity of the man, a known police officer, and reported it in the following week’s paper. Only after the article appeared in print, did George Galloway recognise the man he had witnessed to be that same ‘undercover’ police officer, inciting violence.

    (Amazingly this hasn’t been a huge story.)

    George Galloway susequently sent this letter to Jacqui Smith:

    To Rt Hon Jacqui Smith
    Home Secretary


    Dear Home Secretary,

    As you may be aware I wrote to Sir Ian Blair and Mayor Johnson calling for an inquiry into the policing of the demonstration against George W Bush on Sunday 15 June in Parliament Square/Whitehall. I enclose a copy of my letter to him. I should say I have since been visited by Superintendent Tim Jackson and have given him an account of the basis of my original complaint.

    I did tell him, however, that subsequent newspaper revelations may indicate a far more sinister involvement of the police in actual law-breaking on the demonstration which sought to provoke exactly the ugly scenes which eventually ensued.

    Since my meeting with the superintendent yesterday this issue has become clearer and obliges me both as a Member of Parliament and as a close witness to these events to write to you as Home Secretary demanding a full inquiry by the government into the extraordinary events and policy decisions surrounding the policing of this demonstration.

    You will be aware by now of an article in the Mail on Sunday of 22 June by Yasmin Whittaker-Khan in which she recounts her shock at meeting a man, whom she knew to be a policeman from a previous encounter, who seemed determined to bring about a confrontation between the demonstrators and the police.

    This man for at least 30 minutes was stood right next to me at the front of the protest and it is inconceivable that no police photograph will confirm this. I say this because several police stills cameramen and at least one video cameraman were constantly filming. I can now confirm that this man was Chris Dreyfus, an inspector in the police. This man, to my direct knowledge, committed four criminal offences during the 30 minutes or so he stood next to me. First, he repeatedly chanted the arcane, antiquated Americana, “Kill the pigs!” This is a clear incitement to violence, indeed murder. If a Muslim demonstrator had been chanting it, say, outside the Danish Embassy, he would likely now be in prison.

    Secondly, he repeatedly (crushing me in the process) attempted to charge the crush barriers and the police line behind them. Thirdly, he repeatedly exhorted others so to do. Fourthly, he instructed a young demonstrator on the correct way to uncouple a crush barrier, which was successfully achieved and was subsequently thrown at the police, and was presumably one of the justifications for the deployment of a riot squad which eventually waded in to the protesters.

    Home Secretary, there can hardly a more grave indictment of the conduct of the police force in a democratic country than this. People in the labour movement have often mythologised the state’s use of agents provocateurs throughout my 40 years experience and no doubt long before. But, to my recollection, we have never caught one red-handed before. This inspector’s criminal actions must place all the other in themselves legitimate complaints about police tactics in a new light. I wrote to Sir Ian – and to Mayor Johnson – questioning the competence of the policing on that day.

    It now seems that what happened was a deliberate conspiracy to bring about scenes of violent disorder, seen around the world and for purposes on which we can only speculate. You, however, have clear responsibility to get to the heart of this matter. I do hope you will begin to do so without delay.

    In any case,

    Yours sincerely,
    George Galloway MP

  20. OOH!!

    Part 3 of 2 (You weren’t expecting that!)

    According to this website, the accusations about the police officer named in George Galloway’s letter have been insubstantiated (hence the articles being removed from the websites), and apologies issued:

    Conspiracy! Conspiracy! Conspiracy!

    Oh, come on, it’ll be fun :)

  21. The only surprise here is that the government haven’t slapped a D notice on the story.

    It was widely believed that the “poll tax riots” were actually a few lads from Special Branch kicking off in front of the TV and press – someone that I spoke to at the time, from the Southend Anti Poll Tax Union, said that they had been towards the rear of the march , and had been unaware of the supposed riots until they got home that night.

  22. Redmonkey mentioned the provocateurs discovered at Montebello in 2007 – much the same situation, although I believe it was a ‘Three Amigos’ summit (leaders of Canada, US, Mexico). Several police officers were identified attempting to incite the crowd.

    They were clearly identifiable on video (posted on Youtube) by their yellow-soled police issue boots. They were also whisked away by the police once the crowd turned on them.

  23. The police/government WANTED people to riot. News stories for weeks before the protests were seemingly prepping people for it.

    When people lash out violently in riots etc, it gives the perfect excuse for tighter controls, which is exactly what they want.

  24. WHY?

    What benefit would the police get out of doing something that ridiculous? What cops actually want something like that to kick off, go nasty and put their friends in hospital?

    Unless it’s a high-level conspiracy to get excuses for more restrictive laws on the way to producing a totalitarian state, I don’t see it. And I don’t believe such a conspiracy exists. We we see these days is misguided, not evil.

  25. Yeah – I’m looking for a reason too. Why would people risk their lives to incite violence for no apparent reason? The fun of the fight? That doesn’t add up: kettling requires upper-level management involvement.

  26. Yeah guys, “Agent Provocateur” is just a lingerie store, right? The police would NEVER by default try to crush dissent against the status quo, or to exercise control for the sake of control. THAT’S CRAZY TALK! Not like it’s EVER happened before in history right?

    Seriously, it’s fair enough to question the details of specific reports of this stuff, but if you are aghast at the very idea that the police infiltrate political movements and try to instigate violence and criminal acts you REALLY need to get out more. (Or stay in more reading some history books.) This is not some wacky conspiracy, it’s business as usual.

  27. Didn’t this same thing happen in Chicago in ’68? Undercover agents inciting the crowds who had gathered in Grant park? That night did not end well!

  28. The lack of a good reason has been my whole problem with the “Agent provocateur” idea from the first I heard it suggested. After all, what do the police gain? They break up a protest. And then get years of bad sentiment with the public. Not a very good trade off if you ask me. Temporary reprieve from looking at smelly hippies in exchange for everyone hating you. Yup that works.

    Now, this isn’t to say that it’s not happening, but there really would have to be some strings being pulled, and money exchanging hands. I don’t see too many police chiefs getting orders to start a riot and thinking this is a good plan.

  29. Dewi,

    I presume you are talking about the police, but “risk their lives” is a bit rich. No one that day was any further than 20 or 30 meters from a cop, at any time, and there was almost no unprovoked violence, other than the [media + 6 thugs] circus that broke the bank windows, and the police who did little to quell emotions and quite a bit to provoke them (baton charges, kettling, verbal threats, etc).

    Remember, all the scare stories of what was supposed to happen that day came from the police and the tabloids; there was never a “risk their lives” situation. In the exact same light, why would civilians “..risk their lives to incite violence for no apparent reason? The fun of the fight?”

    There was no civilian riot.

    Your last line puzzles me no end, though.

    That doesn’t add up: kettling requires upper-level management involvement.

    Are you mistaking ‘kettling’ for something else? Because there certainly was ‘kettling’ on that day, as confirmed by the Met and the LTP, and my own experience. It’s a standard tactic, not a conspiracy.


    Didn’t they have a pretty good reputation a few decades ago? I’m disgusted by pretty much any report I hear about UK police, recently.

  31. @Pantograph

    Ad hominem. The issue comes down to proof, not the accuser, and given the over-documentation by police cameras, it is unlikely such proof, either way doesn’t exist. Stick to basic civil arugument, please.

    @Matthew Walton

    A conspiracy at a high level is not necessary for what is alleged to have happened to be true.

    You may hold the opinion that it could not be true, but the video cited by #18 is difficult to reduce to opinion. Was that part of how you formed your opinion? The eerie similarity between the two events is striking:

    – the provocateurs in the crowd, and the incitement to violence;
    – their witnessed ability to leave the confinement of the kettling;
    – the acquiescence of policemen on the line, their clear preparation for the circumstance when a “protestor” suddenly flashes ID and is allowed to enter their lines.

    This seems to indicate at minimum a level of organization over time and at different locations. Perhaps this doesn’t constitute a conspiracy, but that begins to seem a semantic difference if these similarities are real.

    The fact that both demos were for similar types of event indicates that part and parcel of the security briefing for these events involves these kinds of tactics. The likelihood in both cases that the cops in question were local, not a hired security force indicates that outside security consultants co-opt police in the places that they go.

    As to the motivations for fomenting violence, one only needs to look at the enormous utility of real violence when turned to account by the authorities. The reaction to the Luddites, the Haymarket Riots, The Watts Riots, The 1968 Democratic Convention, Scargill’s Miners, 9/11 and endless others, are real examples of actual violence. Each allowed authoritarian elements in society, government and the police to enjoy greatly increased power and control, and produced a general reduction in democratic freedoms. The problem each of them had for authorities was each involved real, uncontrolled violence, with the attendant possibility of loss of control. How much more preferable, then to have controlled violence that you yourself create and use, if it can be turned to the same effect.

    That seems uncontentious, but I have no preference for reassuring stories about the benign nature of those who hold and wield power over me.

  32. #29, #30

    There are three reasons to kick off the fight:

    1) To justify the police’s requests for more men and more pay. Being able to show a problem with lawlessness gets the police extra funding to hire more people and also get more pay (dangerous situations = hazard pay). So, it all comes down to the money.

    2) More police powers. The crowds are turning nasty more and more often, so we need more and more power to keep them in their place, right?

    3) “I’m gonna kick me some tree-hugger ass, and crack a few hippy skulls at the protests this week.” Sometimes the police are just violent assholes.

  33. I agree with #37:

    Although, there are alot of things going on in the UK that scare me right now. The CCTV cameras and excessive fear mongering posters to name a few. It scares me because the US is only about five years behind the UK’s latest fashion trends…

    I wonder what would have happened if the “hippies” just started “bashing” the two inciters’ skulls. Would the riot police have come to thier rescue or would they have been left at the mercy of the crowd?

  34. I hadn’t seen that Canadian video until now. David Coles is my new hero. God damn, what a ballsy fellow!

  35. I wonder what would have happened if the “hippies” just started “bashing” the two inciters’ skulls

    Newe, where does the idea that any of the protesters would “bash” anybody come from?

    Would the riot police have come to thier rescue or would they have been left at the mercy of the crowd?

    The “mercy of the crowd”? What on Earth are you talking about?

    The police won’t let peaceful citizen protesters have a peaceful march in their own city center, and here you are asking if they would let them murder two undercover police officers, in plain sight. What the fuck are you on about?

    It’s ridiculously out-of-touch-with-reality imagineering like that, that gets the tabloids and the police into such a tizzy in the first place. These are normal human beings, marching against injustice of one sort or another, not organised packs of crazed criminals, running around looking for a bit o’ bovver.

  36. I was not at the G20 demos, but my son was there outside the bank of Scotland with his camera. There were lots of people in flack jackets with video gear We heard about the person who died, and the quickie autopsy that found the police innocent. An amateur video managed to show that things were not as officially described. Where were the official videos? They went to the same place as the ones showing the Brazilian electrician getting shot.

    This is not to say that all rozzers are like this. Many are deeply pissed off by this sort of thing. But it seems to happen.

    The solution is for everyone who goes to a protest to take their camera. Best of all, you can get these cheap helmet-mounted or shoulder mounted cameras that can be left running for hours. They want a total surveillance society? Let them have it, but only when the cameras belong to individuals, and not the state. That way we get to say “if you aren’t guilty, then you have nothing to worry about”.

    Just been re-reading my Spider Jerusalem comix. Welcome to Dante Street, folks…

  37. @ #31

    Matthew, you must be new to this whole police brutality thing. If you have been reading Boing Boing I’m sure you are aware that police at the G20 summit killed an innocent bystander who was not even protesting. Conspiracy or no, that occurrence perfectly illustrates that the police are not here for our protection. Their job is simply to control the population with coercion and unjustifiable violence.

    In regards to the conspiracy, just watch the video suggested by other commenters. There is absolutely a motive for the police to take this kind of action. A violent riot makes protesters look like mad men and gives the state the appearance of a level-headed guardian of the people.

    If that video somehow does not convince you that the cops are not on your side, have a gander at this T-shirt…

  38. And people wonder why we get our news from The Internet. Stories like this generally do not get covered by mainstream media, yet it is very important information the public needs to know.

  39. re #20, bear in mind in the UK that photographing police officers is a criminal offence these days,

    I am sure a full investigation will clear the police in general and if it finds anything did happen that these two individuals, who obviously were overzealous and working against orders, will be demoted.

    I mean its not as if we live in a police state or something

  40. re: the George Galloway letter.

    I can confirm that there was a Daily Mail article, written by a DM journalist, not Mr Galloway. It’s gone now, but I did tumblelog it with a brief quote here.

    On the other hand, it was a Daily Mail article. (They do have a rep for unsubstantiated shock pieces.)

    I’m not sure distrust of Galloway’s letter on the basis of his character really counts as an Ad Hominem attack. When you’re judging whether to trust someone’s account, you have to take it in the light of their character.

    On the third hand, this new account has nothing to do with Galloway.

    On the fourth hand, why did the MP wait so long to come forward?

  41. .

    Who would’a thunk?

    “Celle Hole (German: Celler Loch) is a breach in the outer wall of the prison of Celle, Germany. First used on July 25, 1978, the name was part of a campaign by the West German secret service (…) in an attempt to lay blame on the Red Army Faction, West Germany’s most active and prominent left-wing terrorist group. However, the incident was revealed in 1986 to be a plot by the government, much to the embarrassment of the government.”

    (Captcha: curse essential)


  42. @Winjer:

    Agreed in the sense that people are not getting arrested en masse for photographing police officers.

    I’m even willing to concede that it might be the case that the law wasn’t designed to make photographing police officers, soldiers, etc. an arrestable offense.

    BUT. In a strict reading of the letter of the law as passed, it certainly IS possible to convict someone for taking a photograph of a police officer, especially if the circumstances made it more than usually useful to an imagined terrorist. Of course, it would also depend on the judge.

    (IANAL — just trying to distill to a few sentances some of the longer arguments I’ve read by those that are.)

  43. Here we are, seeking out the Reds
    Trying to keep the communists in order
    Just remember when you’re sleeping in your beds
    They’re only two days drive from the Texas border
    How can a country large as ours
    Be scared of such a threat
    Well if they won’t work for us
    They’re against us you can bet
    They may be sovereign countries
    But you folks at home forget
    That they all want what we’ve got
    But they don’t know it yet

    Trala la la,
    Trala la la,
    Trala la la,
    Trala la la,

    We’re making the world safe for capitalism

    Here we come with our candy and our guns
    And our corporate muscle marches in behind us
    For freedom’s just another world for nothing left to sell
    And if you want narcotics we can get you those as well
    We help the multi-nationals
    When they cry out protect us
    The locals scream and shout a bit
    But we don’t let that affect us
    We’re here to lend a helping hand
    In case they don’t elect us
    How dare they buy our products
    Yet still they don’t respect us

    Trala la la,
    Trala la la,
    Trala la la,
    Trala la la,

    We’re making the world safe for capitalism

    If you thought the army
    Was here protecting people like yourself
    I’ve some news for you
    We’re here to defend wealth

    Away with nuns and bishops (Romero!)
    The Good Lord will help those that help themselves
    I’ve some news for you
    We’re here to defend wealth

    Trala la la,
    Trala la la,
    Trala la la,
    Trala la la,

    We’re making the world safe for capitalism

    Trala la la,
    Trala la la,
    Trala la la,
    Trala la la,

    Billy Bragg The Marching Song Of The Covert Battalions lyrics

  44. Interesting story of police corruption, Arkizzle.
    There is more supporting evidence here:
    Very peculiar story, especially considering the Inspector in question was previously denied a promotion apparently because of “provocative” posts about his gay lifestyle on his facebook page, and he leads a high profile “counter-terrorism” team.

  45. Complete hunch, here, but I can’t help but wonder if the Tony Amos mentioned is, in fact, Tony Olmos. Brilliant photographer that he is, the guy has a knack for finding just the thick of things.

    Either way, guy takes great photos:

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