Standing against Prevent spooks in Camden

Protest at Camden Labour council meeting on 21 January 2019

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 268 February/March 2019

On 21 January 2019, members and supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) held a demonstration outside a full meeting of Labour-run Camden council to protest against the Council’s policing of a public meeting we held in September 2018. We presented a petition which demanded:

  • the release of information surrounding the council’s outrageous decision to send Prevent counter-extremism officers to the RCG meeting;
  • a new vote at Camden Council to repeal the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which was endorsed by the council in 2017, now that it is clear that the definition is being used to attack free speech.

In a striking display of cross-party unity, Camden’s Tory, Liberal and Labour councillors lined up to defend the Council’s adoption of the IHRA definition. They also gave a ringing endorsement of the Council’s refusal to release any information about the reasons for dispatching Prevent spooks to our meeting, let alone the report the officers would have submitted about the event.

Councillors who spoke all agreed that such secretive methods are necessary to ‘protect’ the public from those they define as extremists, racists and terrorists – that is, campaigners who stand up for Palestine against Zionist terror. Labour councillor Abdul Hai led the charge by denying that in sending its Prevent officers to our meeting the Council had used IHRA to curb free speech, and that it would have ‘taken the same action… with reference to our framework for responding to speakers promoting messages of hate and intolerance’. So defending Palestine against Zionist terror and racism is a message of ‘hate and intolerance’? This is a clear endorsement of the Zionist narrative which seeks to portray the Israeli state as a ‘victim’ of the Palestinian people. Unbelievably, Hai claimed that the Prevent spies had not been instructed by the Council to report back on the meeting. When he went on to say that ‘It is vital that people are able to think and speak freely’, he showed himself to be a shameless hypocrite.

Council Prevent strategies are supposedly to stop people being drawn into ‘terrorism’. Of course the policy was always going to be deployed against those who stand against the ruling class, including socialists and communists. All it requires is for someone to define such activity as ‘extremist’ – in our case, the Daily Express, which described the RCG as ‘a threat to public safety’ and ‘hate-filled extremists’ on the instigation of  reactionary blogger Guido Fawkes, and Tory councillor Oliver Cooper, who was quite clear in his mind that labelling Zionism as racism was anti-Semitic. In the case of our September meeting, it was a pro-Zionist former Labour councillor Phillip Rosenberg who tried to pressure the venue into banning our meeting, and when he failed, clearly pushed Camden Council into sending its spies to the event.

Clearly there is a fight to be won here, but the RCG cannot do it alone. We need support from all those opposed to IHRA and in this instance we did not get that. Three Momentum members signed our formal petition. Aside from that, there has been silence from the left. Camden Labour councillor Georgie Robertson, a Momentum supporter, was fully aware of the petition as we met with her in person to ask for support, but in the end showed herself to be a complete coward by making no public statement.

Zionism is racism!

Free Palestine!

If you want to support us, please sign our petition on Change.org and consider making a donation to our work.

 

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