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High street cosmetics chain Lush has resumed its Spycops campaign after putting it on pause following reports of former police officers intimidating staff instore.
The initiative was launched in a bid to bring attention to the misconduct of undercover police officers infiltrating citizen’s lives – with some going as far as having children with partners who did not know their true identity.
The Metropolitan Police stole the identities of around 80 dead children and issued fake passports in their names for use by undercover police officers who infiltrated animal rights groups among others.
The actions of some of these officers has been described as campaigners as ‘sexual and psychological abuse’. One fathered a son, who he then abandoned aged two. The boy and his mother only learned he was an undercover officer two decades later.
Lush launched the campaign last month, displaying posters featuring an actor dressed half as a policeman and half as an activist. Slogans on the poster said ‘police have crossed the line’ and ‘paid to lie’.
The campaign drew fierce criticism from some – including Home Secretary Sajid Javid and a number of police figures, who described it as ‘anti-police’. He said: “Never thought I would see a mainstream British retailer running a public advertising campaign against our hardworking police. This is not a responsible way to make a point.”
The campaign was also described as ‘an insult to the hard work, professionalism and dedication of police officers throughout the UK’, by the Police Federation.
In an official statement, Lush denied that its campaign was ‘anti-police’ saying: “We are aware that the police forces of the UK are doing an increasingly difficult and dangerous job whilst having their funding slashed. We fully support them in having proper police numbers, correctly funded to fight crime, violence and to be there to serve the public at our times of need.
“This campaign is not about the real police work done by those front line officers who support the public every day – it is about a controversial branch of political undercover policing that ran for many years before being exposed.
“Our campaign is to highlight this small and secretive subset of undercover policing that undermines and threatens the very idea of democracy…This public inquiry needs help from the public to keep it on track and ensure that this one opportunity for full honesty and disclosure is not lost or squandered. All citizens should be concerned when human rights are abandoned by those in power. The police themselves have admitted in their public apology to seven of the females deceived into long-term relationships with police spies, that these actions were ‘a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma’.
“In a recent court case the police admitted the actions amounted to ‘inhumane and degrading treatment breaching Article 3 of the European Declaration of Human Rights. Those victims are now asking that the public inquiry demands that the undercover units release a full list of the undercover names used by their operatives, release a list of which campaign groups were targeted, and also that they release the information and data entries they hold on individuals whose lives and homes were infiltrated during these operations. Without this full disclosure there is no way of knowing the full extent of what happened during the dark years of this renegade secret policing operation – and that full disclosure might not happen unless the public demand it.”
Following reports that former and off-duty police officers had intimidated Lush staff into removing posters, Chair of Cambridge Police Federation Liz Groom tweeted: “One of our officers went and had a polite and constructive discussion with the managers of Lush Peterborough who then removed their display. Seems some of their staff are sensible and care about our feelings after all.”
The tweet, which was ‘liked’ 2,162 times and retweeted 293 times drew fierce critism, with one user responding: “This is utterly dystopian. So criticism of the police is going to be met with you making sure it’s taken down? Your feelings may be hurt but people’s lives have been ruined. You’re a disgrace.”
Another added: “Sorry, free speech doesn’t care about your personal feelings. That’s how it works. Seems like you don’t approve of such freedom. That’s quite worrisome coming from someone sworn to protect and uphold the law.”
Many have supported the campaign – and Lush’s attempts to bring police misconduct to wider public attention. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: “Called into Lush shop to buy present and express my solidarity. Along with many of the victims of #spycops I am grateful to Lush for supporting the campaign for truth and justice. It’s appalling its staff have been intimidated because Lush stood up for us. Let’s stand up for them.”
Police Spies Out of Lives [PSOOL] is a support group for legal action against undercover policing. It also supports the campaign, saying: “We are supporting the legal actions, and participation in the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing, by people affected by long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers who were infiltrating environmental and social justice campaign groups.
“Police Spies Out of Lives [PSOOL] is a campaigning support group working to achieve an end to the sexual and psychological abuse of campaigners and others by undercover police officers. We support the people affected by the issues to expose the immoral and unjustified practice of undercover relationships and the institutional prejudices which have led to the abuse.”
In response to criticism, Lush has launched a new design, with no images, and text saying: “At least 1,000 campaign groups spied on by at least 250 undercover officers infiltrating lives, homes and beds of citizens for 50 years.”
The poster also references Prime Minister Theresa May’s public inquiry, which it describes as ‘three years, £10 million, increasingly secret and going nowhere’.
So far the inquiry has not heard any evidence, with accusations that Chair John Mitting will let too much of it to be heard in private. In addition, Mitting has granted anonymity to a large number of former undercover officers – despite many saying there is a huge public interest in knowing the identity of these officers.
One of the women tricked into sex and a five-year relationship with undercover officer Mark Jenner accused Sajid Javid of trying to thwart the campaign.
Known as ‘Alison’, she said: “While I accept that those members of the public with no knowledge or understanding of the wrongdoing perpetrated by these units may have initially misread the central campaign image, I do not believe this is true of the Home Secretary.
“He knows exactly what we’re asking of him, and, instead of responding to requests to discuss our concerns, he ignores us and rubs salt into our wounds by attempting to delegitimise our campaign aims.”