Rod Richardson: London targets

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This article is part of the Undercover Research Portal at Powerbase - investigating corporate and police spying on activists



Part of a series on
undercover police officers
Rod ?
Rod Richardson face.jpg
Alias: Rod Richardson
Deployment: 1999-2003
Unit:
Targets:
Environmental, anti-capitalist and anti-fascist protestors, Movement Against Monarchy, WOMBLES, Earth First! network

Rod Richardson was the alias of an undercover police officer who infiltrated London-based and environmental groups from 1999 to 2003. This page looks at his activities with London-based groups, mainly the Movement Against Monarchy, the W.O.M.B.L.E.S., and the international protests he attended.

See also

  • Note from Undercover Research Group: the Movement Against Monarchy and the WOMBLES partook in or organised various events throughout the time Rod was involved with them. While we have chronicled many of his known activities, there are still gaps. If you can shed light on, please contact us, even if it is to simply confirm what others have told us.

Movement Against Monarchy

Rod Richardson timeline.1.png

Rod's first target in London was the anarchist based Movement Against Monarchy (MAM) which he joined in 2000[1][2] An off-shoot of Class War, MAM was active from 1997 to 2002 and carried out a number of high profile actions against the royal family. In 1997, when it planned a march on the home of Camilla Parker-Bowles, police said would investigate the group.[3] The year 2000 saw a high point of activity with multiple protests occurring in London and elsewhere, with considerable media attention, which included an interview for the Daily Mail by Commissioner John Stevens who declared the Royal Family could be at risk from the group.[4] On the ground it experienced an increase in police attention that year.[5] In June 2000, four members were arrested for publicly mooning at Buckingham Palace,[6] while a protest targeted the first public appearance of Prince Charles and Camilla in public together.[7] July 2000, brought the group back to public attention when it called for a protest against the Queen Mother's centenary birthday celebrations on 4 August, which lead to fears her open-top carriage parade would have to be cancelled due to police concerns.[8] The group was also active in the June 18 Carnival Against Capitalism in 1999, and in the 2000 and 2001 MayDay protests.

Rod's first known contact with MAM came through the Rettendon camp, when a team of people from MAM visited the camp. Rod became involved with the group after that,[9] having subsequently turned up at a MAM pub meeting in early 2000,[10] and continued attending the group's meetings in Hackney (where the group was mainly based) and Whitechapel.[5] Through these he was in a position to hear lots of information relating to group members.[10] Paul Stott, active with MAM in London at the time, recalled that Rod 'was always' there, but tended to be somewhere in the middle, neither hanging around the back or seeking to be at the front of things.[11] Nor did he join Class War, previously a target for infiltration, remaining only with the informally organised MAM.[11][9]

In May 2000 press attention on the group suddenly ramped up following statements by Commissioner of Police John Stevens about the group's planned activities, namely protesting Royal family related events, particularly the upcoming 100th birthday celebrations of the Queen Mother. At least one person connected to the group was raided by Special Branch at the time.[12][13]

Rod took part in discussions for protests planned for the Queen Mother's 100th birthday (celebrations for this took place in August 2000).[1] and is known to have been at one protest where an effigy of the Queen Mother was pushed around Hackney in a pram.[14] Julie Chadwick recalled meeting him on this day. She had turned up at the pub where the group had assembled prior to the protest and found it surrounded by police. There she spotted Rod waiting alone outside the pub, not far from the police, and went to speak to him. They both then joined the small, peaceful march around Hackney which she recalled protestors being outnumbered by police around 5 to 1.[15]

Rod also attended the demonstration of 30 May 2002 in Hackney,[5][16] against a royal walk-about by Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex who were there as part of the Queen's Jubilee celebrations[17] This may be the same MAM demonstration in Hackney, which Rod was also known to be at which had a considerable police presence, and included Special Branch officers making themselves known to activists who were in a pub on the day.[2] Afterwards, the royal couple visited New Scotland Yard to learn more about the police's preparation for the Golden Jubilee.[18]

At the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations of 2002, a large number of people at a protest held by the group on 4 June were pre-emptively arrested 'to protect public safety' at Tower Bridge. In 2004, 23 of the 41 arrested on the day who successfully sued were paid £5,300 each and received an apology from the police for wrongful arrest.[19] Prior to the Jubilee celebrations newspaper reports wrote of Special Branch monitoring online discussions.[20] It has yet to be ascertained if Rod was involved in this event or when MAM activists threatened to protest in Derby in 2002 against the Queen's visit to the city.[21][22]

It appeared to people in Nottingham that MAM was something Rod was very much into and would make jokes about doing stuff with them;[23] albeit, there was not much interest in that campaign in that city.[24]

Rod also attended at least one meeting of anti-monarchist activists in Norwich[25][26][27] and wore on occasion a t-shirts with the slogan 'Queen Mum, hurry up and die'.[27]

W.O.M.B.L.E.S.

While with Movement Against Monarchy, Rod also appears to been associated himself to Reclaim the Streets, and in particular its off-shoot, the White Overall Movement Building Libertarian Effective Struggles, better known as the WOMBLES. This was an anarchist group inspired by the Italian Ya Basta! movement, and drew heavily on experiences of British activists at the September 2000 counter-mobilisation against the International Monetary Fund in Prague.

From 2001 to 2004 the WOMBLES was a high profile group in the UK anti-globalisation and anarchist movements and had a strong presence at MayDay demonstrations and international mobilisations. The high profile was helped by the distinctive white overalls they wore and the willingness to confront police violence on demonstrations. They were also closely associated with the international network, Peoples' Global Action.

From early on, it was recognised they had attracted attention from Special Branch, and in April 2001 there appeared press reports that MI5 and Special Branch had started running covert operations against them.[28]

Note on tradcraft

With the WOMBLES, Rod demonstrated other features of undercover police tradecraft that were not so clear with the other groups he targeted. In particular, he focused his attention on one person who was a leading figure in the group.[29] Despite his own dislike of being photographed, he brought video cameras to actions, claiming to be doing films for Indymedia,[25] though no evidence of him actually posting them or otherwise involved in Indymedia has been found.[30]

Origins of the WOMBLES (2000)

W.O.M.B.L.E.S. in their distinctive white overalls during a protest.

By the time Rod came on the scene, Reclaim the Streets (RtS) was in the process of winding down as the leading anti-globalisation movement in London, now less a political collective and more of a forum. Ongoing political differences were taking people various directions with people focusing on other projects. The WOMBLES were one of the groups which emerged in this period,such as Indymedia, samba, Rising Tide, anti-arms trade protest, etc - a number of which would also be infiltrated by other Special Branch undercover officers such as Jason Bishop.

Inspired by events in Prague that September, the WOMBLES as a concept was launched at the Anarchist Bookfair in October 2000.[31] In December 2000, the process was catalysed further following the Cock Tavern incident (see below), as political differences became more apparent, and according to one member of the WOMBLES all that was left was to chose a name.[9]

Rod was invited to join the emerging group and became a member of its internal mailing list through which he would have had access to minutes of its meetings.[10]

Cock Tavern incident (2000)

The Cock Tavern pub, near Euston, had been a regular meeting venue for Reclaim the Streets, but also others including dissident republicans. It had been named in press as the venue where RtS held meetings in the run up to their MayDay 2000 'Guerrilla Gardening' action.[32]

In December 2000, the National Front called a demonstration outside the pub to protest the presence of the republican groups.[33] This was met by a counter-demonstration from anti-fascists who confronted them, among them people from groups Rod was associated with. On the evening of the confrontation, Rod apparently went to check out the nearby Royal George pub at Euston, where he claimed to have spotted some of them. He then went to join the Reclaim the Streets group who were present with other anti-fascist protestors.[2]

MayDay 2001

MayDay preparations

W.O.M.B.L.E.S. marching during a protest in London, 2001.

From December 2000, the WOMBLES took a leading role in organising protests for the 2001 MayDay. On the 20th of that month they organise mini-conference at the Button Factory, Brixton; groups from across the UK attend, including Class War, Anarchist Communist Federation and Reclaim the Streets.[34] The protest is named Mayday Monopoly after the board game, and the subsequent literature and websites calls for a series of autonomous, decentralised action based this idea.[35]

Mayday Monopoly leaflet (2001).[36]

The Button Factory was a squatted social centre squat on Wanless Road, Herne Hill Lane, SE24, which had been a host for local events, parties and had a cafe.[37][38] It was used by the WOMBLES as a meeting space in the first half of 2001 and hosted the 'London Underground' monthly forum which included discussions of events for the 2001 Mayday.[39] Rod, active in the WOMBLES by this time, is known to have attended the Button Factory on a number of occasions.[2][29]

Through-out early 2001, while planning for MayDay continued, the WOMBLES engaged in several large scale actions, though it is not clear if Rod was at them. These included:

  • Defending a protest marking the 10th anniversary of the bombing of Iraq in Parliament Square from police attack.[34]
  • 11 March 2001: a WOMBLES action shuts down NikeTown, Nike's flagship store on Oxford Street, London, in solidarity with striking Nike workers in Mexico and the Zapatista struggle for autonomy.[34][40]
  • 23 - 25 March 2001, the WOMBLES participate in the Peoples' Global Action meeting in Milan called by Ya Basta![34][41] Police hold and question two members of the WOMBLES returning this meeting at Stansted airport.[42] (Rod was not among those at the Milan meeting.[9])

At the time there was huge political pressure on the police to prevent a repeat of the events of the 2000 MayDay, with senior officers being told they could lose their jobs if there was a repeat of the previous year. The police focused heavily on the WOMBLES, filming them handing out leaflets and monitoring benefit concerts. From 12 April, the Met stepped up their media campaign talking up 'zero tolerance' against those who were 'hijacking' the MayDay protests. [43]

'Steve', an activist with the WOMBLES, recalled that in early 2001 an intense media campaign begun. Initially, in February, it targeted the London May Day Collective (an umbrella group), but around March it switched focus to the WOMBLES. He also noted that many of the reports seemed to come from the same police source (he noted there was similar spelling mistakes across the board and erroneous references).[9] It was also later learned that police were doing twice daily briefings for journalists.[44]

The police and media campaign sought to deter people from attending, effectively criminalising protest. This included statements from Tony Blair[45][46] and dubious stories of people planning to bringing samurai swords.[47] A £1 million police operation under Assistant Commissioner Michael Todd, and Commander Michael Messinger was put in place with a declaration of 'zero tolerance' towards protestors. Police themselves believed the plan was to seize and ransack a major store on Oxford Street.[48][49] The press stated the police were focused on several organisations - Class War, WOMBLES and the S26/M1 umbrella group.[50] Many businesses would pre-emptively close for the day, supposedly costing £20 million in lost revenue.

The 'Button Factory' raid

On 30 March 2001: police raided the Button Factory. In press at the time, it was alleged to be 'an anarchist training centre' where groups were preparing for the upcoming MayDay protests. 200 police from the Metropolitan Police, City of London Police and British Transport Police were involved in 'Operation Dursley', under the command of Det. Ch. Supt. Bob Randall to occupy the empty building. The raid was authorised by no less than Commissioner John Stevens who in statements to the press justifying the large police operation, cited intelligence that activists were using it to prepare for MayDay, the preparations apparently including targeting the police, government buildings and businesses over MayDay and the following days.[51][52] Rod is known to have visited the squat,[2] which remained under police surveillance after the eviction, in which the police used diggers to demolish part of it in an attempt to prevent its reuse.[38]

A now-deleted article from the Sunday Times indicated 150 police were involved in the raid, led by Metropolitan Police Special Branch, and that Special Branch had identified 20/30 core people in the WOMBLES.[53] Journalists with the Daily Telegraph, including David Bamber, were invited to join the raid itself and report on it as an exclusive.[9][51] Bamber's article quoted Randall as saying:[51]

There is no doubt that this new radical organisation of anarchists is importing a frightening brand of continental-style violence into British protests. We have seen violent tactics used around the world against government leaders and business organisations in Prague and Seattle. Now they are being used here. Last year's MayDay riots showed what mayhem and destruction can be caused when things get out of hand and this new organisation is actively preparing and inciting people to cause violence.... Last year's demonstration was largely organised by Reclaim the Streets, which is a peaceful organisation, although there was trouble. This year the organisation has been overtaken by far more violent groups.

A report in The Guardian quoted police on the intelligence operation around the WOMBLES in the run up to MayDay.[54]

The police are not giving too much away at this stage. They have "an intelligence picture", built up by covert operations led by Special Branch and MI5, but do not know how accurate or clear it is.
The Met's assistant commissioner Mike Todd, who is in overall charge of MayDay policing this year, was candid enough to admit this week that none of the ringleaders of last year's trouble had been caught.
There is concern that the protests that have been heavily flagged on the internet and in the MayDay Monopoly game guide pamphlet will not be the focus of any trouble.
"Is there a hidden agenda?", said an officer. "We don't think so. But we cannot be sure."
By sabre-rattling at this stage, the police are hoping to make trouble-makers think twice before coming at all. "We have intelligence on certain individuals who we think are pulling the strings behind the scenes, but we do not have evidence," said one officer. "We think we know who they are. Intelligence can help us prepare, but it won't get someone arrested. Intelligence can also be wrong. We won't really know what we're dealing with until the day."

MayDay 2001 & the 'Bacon Factory'

Despite the eviction of the Button Factory, which was to be one 'convergence centre', the WOMBLES continued to be active in organising for MayDay, and in particular the 'MayDay Monopoly' protests which brought together various anti-globalisation and anarchist groups. On 21 April, the WOMBLES hosted the 'Sale of the Century' public meeting as part of the lead up to MayDay. The considerable media and police attention continues, including overt monitoring by Forward Intelligence Teams.[34]

At one open meeting in the run up, held at the Conway Hall, the police sought to hand some people a letter regarding the planning of the protests.[55] Rod also is known to have attended one planning meeting in relation to MayDay which took place in April 2001 at the Southbank Centre.[25]

Police were stated to be searching for two inner-city sites that organisers were planning to take over as alternative convergence centres to host people coming to the protests from outside the city. A report in the Evening Standard by Nigel Rosser and Justin Davenport wrote:[56]

One anarchist source said: "There are two likely places, rundown warehouses or the like. These have been identified but none of the leaders are saying where until the last minute. We know police are alive to the probability of this."
A senior police officer said: "We are aware they are trying to set one of these places up and we are monitoring what they do. We believe they may be ready to move in by the weekend." If police cannot get a court order in time to stop the occupation of the camp, they will flood the area with officers and carry out overt surveillance, senior detectives have told the Standard.

The same journalists would go on to name and detail the background of a leading WOMBLES activist in an Evening Standard article several days later on the 30 April, just before MayDay. They also reveal that police had attempted to serve a letter on him demanding to know plans for MayDay.[57] Prior to this, he had not been publicly named, and some of the personal detail appeared to have come from intelligence sources.[9] However, this naming and profiling of prominent activists in the press is something that other campaigns that were targeted by NPOIU undercovers would experience as well, particularly SPEAK Campaigns in Oxford and the 2007 Camp for Climate Action at Heathrow.[58]

Another media report stated the police had identified nine anarchists who they said were masterminding MayDay protests and had sent them letters asking for details of plans. Some had no previous records and were included on grounds of being linked to the WOMBLES.[59]

On 27 April 2001, Rod took part in the occupation of the 'Bacon Factory', a derelict meat processing facility on Great Suffolk Street, near London Bridge.[2][60] It became the convergence centre for the anarchists' MayDay mobilisation,[34] and Rod is known to have done some of his 'Worms of Doom' paintings on its walls.[9]

MayDay itself opens with police surrounding the convergence centre the Bacon Factory, where there are early skirmishes as protestors seek to leave. 6000 police have been deployed for the day.[61]

One of the actions planned for the 2001 Mayday was conducted by the South London Mayday Collective, which planned a blockade of the Elephant & Castle Roundabout.[36] Rod attended a number of the meetings which planned this action, though people connected to it and the flat the meetings were held in was raided by police (see under 'Suspicions' for further details).[25] The action itself took place with several hundred people occupying the roundabout at noon, holding it for several hours, before leaving for central London.[36]

South London Mayday Collective, Mayday 2001 leaflet.[36]

Ten protestors and two police are recorded as injured by police, while a total of 91 arrests are said to have taken place throughout the day.[62][63][63][64]

Mayday 2001: Oxford Street protest

Rod participates in the large WOMBLES action of the day, the first big public event for the group.[1][2][55] The WOMBLES main plan had been a convergence on Oxford Circus, something announced in advance. Entitled 'Sale of the Century, it had been called for 4pm, after the other main events of MayDay were over. People began assembling there from 2pm and by 3pm 1,500-3000 protestors were in the area. Various individual demonstrations take place and there is a long stand-off with police. At various points in and around Oxford Street police charge and injure protestors; 40 arrests take place.[65]

With Oxford Circus effectively shut off by police by 3pm and the area chaotic, the group had to reform its plan to assemble there at 4pm. A group of about 20-40 WOMBLES, Rod among them, assemble in Soho, coming together with some equipment which they don in an alleyway. Just before 5pm they set off, emerging from Wardour Street to cross Oxford Street, heading north to Great Portland Street. On the way they pick up hundreds of followers among the protestors there. Spare overalls, padding and helmets are distributed. Led by a line of WOMBLES two deep, they take a route towards Harley Street / Cavendish Square to come behind the main police formation at Oxford Circus (where mounted police are being used to charge protestors). Turning down Holles Street, they broke through a police lines there to re-emerge on Oxford Street outside the John Lewis store at 5.15pm.[9][66] Police then charge protestors using shields and batons. Over the next half-hour there are several clashes with police around Holles Street who attack protestors trying to join up with each other and release those imprisoned at Oxford Circus. (Protestors caught there would remain trapped until late into the night) Police lines are broken several times, though a number of protestors are injured.[63]

During these clashes, Simon Chapman, a fellow WOMBLE, who despite being padded was wobbling from being on the receiving end of a heavy bout of police violence at the front of the protest. Rod came and took him away from the front line. The pair then left the demonstration for the fall-back plan, a pub out of central London, being the first of their group to arrive at it.[9] Others in the group continued with a group between 600-1000 strong moved back south and east for a march through central London, eventually cumulating at High Holborn from which they dispersed.[66] Over the evening others from the WOMBLES would join Rod and Simon at the pub.[9]

May - August 2001

The WOMBLES continue to be active on various projects and protests in the months after MayDay. With the West London Anarchists and Radicals, it forms the London Mayday Collective which provides support to those imprisoned after MayDay and holds a demonstration calling for their release on 2 June.[67] (It is not known if Rod was present at this). On 5 June an attempt to protest at corporate media offices, including the Daily Mail, which Rod is not thought to have been,[9] is disrupted by police presence.[34][68] DID ROD KNOW OF THIS ACTION THOUGH?

Rod attends the international mobilisation against the European Union in Gothenburg on 15th June 2001 (see below), where a comrade from the WOMBLES is arrested and imprisoned. A UK-based defence campaign was established, the Gothenburg Solidarity Group, which held around a dozen protests at the Swedish embassy in London.[34][69] Rod attended a number of these demonstrations, as well as related benefit gigs.[2]

In July, Rod joined 20 WOMBLES at the anti-G8 mobilisation in Genoa (see below). At the same time as the G8, a solidarity day of action at the Campsfield Detention Centre in Oxfordshire is shut down by a heavy police presence. Later that month, the 22nd, a demonstration was held at the Italian embassy over events in Genoa; called at short notice, it was attended by people from the WOMBLES, Class War and Movement Against Monarchy. Rod is not remembered as being there. Initially the numbers present seemed to catch police by surprise, though eventually they mustered enough to kettle the protest.[70]

On 28 July, Rod is present at a WOMBLES action when a group of ten occupy the Benetton shop on Oxford Street, dropping banner drop.[55][34] This was part of a larger day of solidarity with those arrested in Genoa. The day including a large protest at the Italian embassy, led in part by Globalise Resistance, at that point infiltrated by undercover officer Simon Wellings.[71] The WOMBLES own report of the day stated:[72]

We arrived at Oxford Circus at 3pm, ran into Bennetton, handing out leaflets and causing general mayhem, while some of us held a massive banner at the corner of Oxford Circus, reading 'Castrate G8'. Security acted slowly and we got out of the shop with few problems, narrowly missing a couple of bobbys on the beat.
We held the banner and the corner of Oxford Circus for about half an hour, with the help and protection of about 40 of our friends in blue, who kindly halted traffic for us, closed one of the station entrances, and maintained a heavy presence at the door of Bennetton and at Niketown opposite, thus dissuading people from entering, hindering trade, and making sure that the whole of Oxford Circus ground to a halt to watch us.

It was noted that the Forward Intelligence Team were very focused on the WOMBLES, following them for most of the day.[9]

During Summer 2001 the WOMBLES took part in several other activities though is not known if Rod was connected to them (please get in touch if you can confirm any of this):

  • 29 June: the group participates in the March Against Racism and Brutality in Tottenham.
  • 7 July: the WOMBLES host a picnic of 50 people on in Wimbledon which has police leafleting the local community while two riot vans and Forward Intelligence Teams present.[34] Rod is thought to have probably been at it, but this is to be confirmed.[29]

Following the events of Genoa and its aftermath, Rod pretty much vanished from the WOMBLES scene until the planning for DSEi began.[29]

DSEi 2001

W.O.M.B.L.E.S. assembling for protest at the 2001 DSEi arms fair.

The next large mobilisation after Genoa which the WOMBLES participated in was the biennial DSEi arms fair. In 2001, it was part run by the Ministry of Defence and due to place over 11th-14th September at the ExCeL centre in the London Docklands. A number of groups including Campaign Against the Arms Trade and Disarm DSEi planned protests at it. Disarm DSEi was a coalition of direct action and anti-capitalist groups at the time led by Reclaim the Street and the WOMBLES. It had united with CAAT to promote the 'Fiesta for Life Against Death', in which various groups would converge on the ExCeL centre on 11th September for the opening of the exhibition. In particular, the WOMBLES would focus on a march from Canning Street to the centre.[73][74][75][76][77]

Though the Disarm DSEi website stated: 'Come in costumes. Think pink and silver. Bring drums, instruments, food and water to share, props, puppets, banners, circus skills, your blue suede shoes, and your love of life', police focused on fears that the protests could turn violent.[78]. Before the protest, a WOMBLE was quoted in the press as saying: We are going to help out with the action. Our actions depend on the police. If they surround us and start beating people then there will be a reaction.[79]

Police planning for the protests had apparently started a year previously, and with 600 officers involved was the largest public order police operation since MayDay.[80] It is also notable that another activist who had been in Reclaim the Streets and gone on to take a leading role in Disarm DSEi was undercover officer Jason Bishop.[81]

Squat raids

In the run up to Mayday, the WOMBLES were connected to two squats in south London. The 'Dentist Factory' on the corner of Great Dover Street and Globe Street (Elephant & Castle), and one at 126 Tooley Street, near London Bridge. The Dentist Factory was a social centre which had been used to store material for the WOMBLES as well as host larger meetings and some benefit gigs.[82][83]

The Tooley Street squat was opened as a women's only space. It had previously been a reprographic unit and barrels marked 'HAZCHEM', though empty had been left there; these were subsequently converted into toilets. Several bottles of developing fluid had also been left there by the previous tenants.[9] Their presence was used to justify both buildings being raided by police in what was clearly an intelligence-led operation.[2] in what was seen as a pre-emptive strike against DSEi related protests.[84]

The raids took place in the early morning of 7th September 2001.[84] One activist who witnessed it noted that police had arrived in riot gear and hazard suits, with ambulances and helicopters present. Nearby Guy's Hospital was rumoured to have had an isolation ward on stand-by,[9] as the Metropolitan Police had supposedly warned them anarchists were hoarding chemical weapons.[82] There were several arrests.[2]

Both venues saw deliberate extensive destruction by the police, including of props being prepared for DSEi protests.[2][82] Four people were arrested at Tooley Street on the orders of the police officer leading the raid for conspiracy to cause violent disorder, which he justified on the bottles found there.[83]

Rod is known to have been present at the squats prior to the raids.[2]

Fiesta for Life Against Death

On 11th September, the day of the opening of arms fair, there were numerous actions resulting in different groups of protestors converging on the ExCeL centre.[85] Military rapid response units, Ministry of Defence Police speedboats and helicopters were all deployed.[86]

The march from Canning Street was the focus of much of the police's attention, effectively kettled by 500 riot police, including a number from the WOMBLES.[80] This sparked clashes when the police sought to force the crowd into a designated protest area.[87].

The WOMBLES, aware of potential police violence and disruption of what was intended to be a peaceful protest, had encouraged people to pad up against truncheons.[88] They also constructed an inflatable shield wall to act as a defence against police batons for those protestors seeking to prevent the arms fair going ahead at the ExCeL centre. This was made in a closed meeting, where Rod was present.[29]

On the day, the WOMBLES would arrive travel by train to Canning Town Station where the march was leaving from. Meanwhile, the shield wall would come in a van hired and driven by Rod.[29] On its way to Canning Town, the van was stopped by police, supposedly on the grounds they had seen something weird that made them suspicious.[1] This was recalled by one person as him apparently driving around a roundabout twice, possibly as in hindsight, he had not been stopped the first time round; Rod's excuse was that had missed the exit.[89] As a result, Rod and his passenger were arrested, and the equipment seized by police. According to one of the WOMBLES involved on the day, the loss of the shield wall Rod was bringing impacted heavily group's action though they continued with the attempt.[9] He turned up to the next meeting of the WOMBLES, claiming to have spent all day in the cells, talking about the experience.[29]

Rod also appears to have presented himself as being a key organiser for the action and helped directs people at a meeting point at Kings Cross earlier in the day.[1] This is not confirmed.

He would also tell people in Nottingham that he had been arrested for transporting materials belonging to the WOMBLES, which added to his credibility.[23]

Radical Dairy & WOMBLES 7 case, 2002

Radical Dairy squat, Stoke Newington, 2002.[90]

Rod is known to have visited and stayed over a couple of times at the 'Radical Dairy' - a squatted social centre on Kynaston Road, Stoke Newington.[2][11][29] The Radical Dairy was one of the first social centres in the UK built on the Italian model, which had inspired activists connected to Reclaim the Streets and WOMBLES who had been to both the 2000 Genoa protests and the March 2001 People's Global Action meeting in Milan. Founded in January 2002, it lasted for 13 months until February 2003, with a strong presence in the local community as well as being an activist hub for the area.[91][92]

The Radical Diary was a place where the defence campaign for the WOMBLES 7 case would meet to discuss strategy. This case emerged from an incident where a number of WOMBLES were attacked and arrested by police on 31 October 2001, after they had left a demonstration against a visit by Henry Kissinger.[93][94] Rod is not thought to have been present on the night, though as yet it has not been ascertained if Rod attended any of the defendant meetings or legal discussions that took place around the case at the venue.[95] At the time there was a concern within the WOMBLES that material relating to the defence campaign was being leaked to the police.[11]

During its existence the Radical Dairy was hassled by the police, including Forward Intelligence Teams photographing people attending a benefit gig in April 2002,[96] and subsequently raided it on 12th April in an attempt to disrupt the space (computers seized, electricity cut off).[97] An account of the raid noted:[98]

The police also read out a statement saying that because a Mayday leaflet was displayed in the window of the Social Centre that it proved that the building was used as "part of the infrastructure to Mayday".

A number of campaigners associated with the Radical Dairy noted that it was almost certainly bugged by police, though it had a deliberate open-door policy which meant it was easy for people off the street to come in. It also had a phone line in the name of 'Emma Goldman', which despite never owing loads of money was not cut off until the day before the raid.[29][89][31] The police raid of 12 April was once again headed by DCS Bob Randall[93] - who by that stage had been nicked-named 'Randall the Vandal' by WOMBLES for the number of times he had trashed their venues.[31]

Protestors outside Horseferry Magistrates during the WOMBLES 7 trial, 2002.

Support for the WOMBLES 7 was a theme at the 2002 MayDay protests,[99][100] and 200 people demonstrated outside the Horseferry Road Magistrates Court on the day. At trial, the defendants were constantly followed by Forward Intelligence Teams even inside the court, the latter only ceasing when the defendants threatened to walk out of the hearing unless the FIT intimidation stopped. Three were acquitted before the end of the case; in the end two were fined one for criminal damage and one for threatening behaviour, having made admissions in their police interviews.[93]

MayDay 2002

W.O.M.B.L.E.S. in 2002.

As in the previous year, the WOMBLES were active in preparations for the 2002 MayDay, which was given the working title "MayDay in Mayfair". Preparations began as early as December 2002 for what was planned to be a week-long set of events, the 'Festival of Alternatives'.[101] The trade unions working with Globalise Resistance held their traditional march and speeches. However, in response to the heavy handling policing of previous years, anarchist / anti-globalisation groups took a more decentralised approach, planning a number of different actions and multiple meet-up points through-out the day rather than one single event.[102][103]

As with the previous years, the mainstream press in the run up to and on the day focused heavily on the WOMBLES, though they did not feature in much of the literature distributed for the day.[104] Likewise, there was a large police operation involving 5,000 officers under the command of AC Michael Todd.[105] In the press, Commissioner John Stevens painted a picture of protestors seeking a 're-match' as the police had won the previous year with their indiscriminating kettling tactics.[106]

On the day, multiple events took place, particularly bicycle critical masses in the morning, and several disparate marches during the day. Several thousand people turned up to participate. Though scuffles broke out in places, the atmosphere was generally good-natured. There was a general heavy police presence at these events, which included preventing different protests joining the main trade union march, and penning in the Sex Workers march in Soho at the end of the day.[107][108] In the run up and on the day, Todd continued to push the message of a 'hardcore of violent protesters that will be using guerilla tactics to evade police and cause mass destruction' in media during the day.[109]

As the WOMBLES 7 were up in court, there was a solidarity protest outside Horseferry Magistrates where they were standing trial. This was entitled 'Breakfast Against Routine Fit-ups' (see above). In the afternoon, was the 'Carnibal', a mass football down Oxford Street.[107][110] As well as Mayday itself, the week saw multiple other events and protests.[111]

Rod is known to have been at different protests during the MayDay itself,[112] and is confirmed as having been at the 'Carnibal' protest.[29] He was very probably present for some of the WOMBLES 7 trial.[14]

Anti-war protests: Disobedience Against War, 2002-2003

Rod would attend a number of anti-war demos through-out 2002 and 2003, in particular those organised under the banner of Disobedience Against War.[2] This group was formed out of people active in groups such as Reclaim the Streets, the WOMBLES, Anarchist Youth Network and West London Anarchists and Radicals, and formed in late 2002.[113] Rod was at the pre-action meetings for this some of these protests, including for ones at RAF Fairford.[2]

RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire was where US bombers took off from there for bombing raids in Iraq. As such, it became the focus of a sustained campaign that provided an alternative to the main Stop The War Coalition events.[114] These protests included 'weapons inspection' actions on 31st October[115] and 14 December[116] 2002. The WOMBLES attended a peaceful protest at the site in February 2003.[117] Rod is said to have been present at least one of these early protests.[2]

Fairford Coach case, 2003

One of the 'Fairford Coaches' being escorted back to London by police, 2003.[118]

A group calling itself the Gloucestershire Weapons Inspectors, who had been behind previous protests at Fairford, had called for large anti-war protest there for 23rd March 2003. The WOMBLES were among those advertising and mobilising for it.[117] Three coach loads of anti-war protestors travelling from London to Fairford were stopped by police, apparently due to intelligence received. The occupants were searched and the coaches forced to return to London under police escort. Close to those organising the coaches was undercover Jason Bishop.[81] It is now been identified that Rod was also on one of these coaches.[2][119] 'Yvette', stated that on the day, he had texted Nottingham hunt sabs, stating that he 'was being kidnapped by the police'.[24]

Kevin Lambert, then a Chief Superintendent with Gloucestershire Police noted in his log for the day:[117]

Based on intelligence received it is understood that 3 coaches and a van are en route from LONDON carrying items and equipment to disrupt the protest today and gain entry to the air base. The protestors are the 'Wombles'. A Section 60 is in place and I have asked for an objective to be made for [senior officers] in charge of the two PSU's on intercept duties to intercept the coaches and van to search and identify any items that may be used. Items on the vehicles are to be seized if they are offending articles and if that is the case, the coaches and van are to be turned around and sent back towards the Metropolitan area. The Metropolitan Police will be asked to pick them up at the M25. They are not to be arrested to prevent a breach of the peace at that particular time, if that is the only offence apparent, as I do not consider there to be an imminent breach of the peace. However they are to be warned if articles are found on the coaches and they arrive at FAIRFORD then I will consider them to be here intent on causing disruption and a breach of the peace and they may find themselves arrested.

A list of groups on the coaches from those on it included:[118]

Quakers - Pacifists - Amnesty International - CND - Volunteers from Indymedia UK - Voices in the Wilderness UK - ARROW - War Resisters International - Women In Black - Stop the War Coalition - Americans Against War - WOMBLES - September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows - The d10 Group - ISM London - Rhythms of Resistance

Later justifying his actions, Lambert stated:

My decision not to allow the coaches to proceed to Fairford to protest was based upon:
(i) The history of the Wombles and Disobedience Action Groups - I was satisfied that hardcore members were on the coaches.
(ii) The intelligence sources leading up to, and on the 22nd March 2003.
(iii) The articles seized from passengers on the coach, and those found in communal areas abandoned …
I considered that upon arrival at RAF Fairford a breach of the peace would have occurred. Therefore, had the coaches been permitted to continue to RAF Fairford the protesters on the coaches would have been arrested upon arrival at RAF Fairford, a breach of the peace then being 'imminent' …
I therefore concluded that I faced a choice of either allowing the coaches to proceed and managing a Breach of the Peace at RAF Fairford, arresting the occupants of the coaches in order to prevent a Breach of the Peace, or turning the coaches around and escorting them back away from the area ...
I could not discount the potential risk that some peaceful protesters were caught up in the decision not to allow coaches to proceed, but it was not possible to be certain who had brought the articles onto the coach and who were intent on direct action …"

The prevention of the coaches going to Fairford was the subject of a major legal challenge by Fairford Coach Action.[118] judgement being handed down by the House of Lords in December 2006. It found that the actions of the police had been unlawful and disproportionate, focusing as it did on the offence of breach of the peace. It was considered a landmark decision at the time.[120] Related court cases continued until 2013, again resulting in victory for the protestors.[121]

At no point was it revealed to the court that there had been two undercover police officers present on the coaches, including one with one of the very groups complained of by Kevin Lambert. In 2016, this lead to lawyers claiming the Metropolitan Police had lied to judges in the case[122] Writing on behalf of one of the Fairford Coach protestors, Zoe Young, lawyers asked the Undercover Policing Inquiry 'to examine the degree to which Mr Richardson may have acted as agent provocateur, the accuracy of police disclosure during the judicial process and what extent his involvement was hidden from the courts'.[123] Zoe told Channel 4 that: [123]

We were there to express our desire for peace around the world, we were against war and we had secret police on our buses. Police concealed that from us and then they concealed the fact that they had police on the buses with us throughout the 10-year judicial process that ensued. They just need to come clean now – this is about reputation management and it needs to be about the truth.

At the time in 2016, the police response was to maintain their position of neither confirm nor deny.

International

Rod Richardson at second day of Genoa G8 protests, 2001.[25]

Rod is known to have attended international anti-globalisation protests alongside people he knew from the WOMBLES. Events he can be attested at include:[1]

  • June 2001, Gothenburg: European Union Summit.[2]
  • July 2001, Genoa: G8 Summit.
  • Summer 2002, Leiden, PGA meeting. The WOMBLES were an 'infopoint' for the international alter-globalisation PGA network.[124]
  • November 2002, Prague: NATO Summit.[2][14]
  • June 2003, Evian: G8 Summit.[1]

Other London activities with the WOMBLES

It is thought that Rod attend a WOMBLES related squat on Old Street,[112] and it is highly likely would have he attended various meeting held at the Freedom Bookshop in Whitechapel.[2] In particular, he attended meetings at The Exchange on Sebbon Street, Islington in the run-up to the mobilisation for Genoa in 2001.[9] Several activists noted that though the WOMBLES held weekly public meetings, Rod was not a regular at meetings, but tended to come more when there was a build up to a big action, though that was true of others campaigners as well.[9][29], but then was always useful.[29] Another campaigner also noted that though Rod attended quite a few meetings he tended to dip in and out of things.[2] When he attended a meeting he would generally accompany people to the pub afterwards.[31]

His involvement or otherwise in a number of WOMBLES events in 2001 remains to be determined; these include:[34]

  • 10 Jan 2001: 10th anniversary of the bombing of Iraq - action in Parliament Square where WOMBLES defend protestors from police attack.
  • 11 March 2001: occupation of the NikeTown shop on Oxford Street in solidarity with Mexico striking workers.
  • 30 September: Labour Party Conference in Brighton. Five WOMBLES arrested for wearing white overalls.
  • 7 October: a series of actions against the bombing of Afghanistan.
  • 13 October: anti-war protest in London.

In January 2002 the WOMBLES initiated a series of new meetings across London including a revival of the London Underground forum, this time at the London Action Resource Centre in Whitechapel, and campaign-related meetings and training workshops which were hosted at The Exchange.[125] Though unconfirmed, it is thought that Rod attended some of these events.

Unlike other undercover police, Rod did not demonstrate much interest in London anti-fascist groups.[11]

References

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