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Intensification of policing, civil liberties implications

The costs of repression

Security for the London Olympics 2012 will be overseen by a Cabinet level Olympic Security Committee chaired by the Home Secretary and comprising senior officers from the UK security forces. The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG), an interim body responsible for any negotiations before the Olympic Delivery Authority was fully constituted, had a Security Directorate of its own. £25 million has been allocated to in venue security, and a further £200 million to cover "wider security costs" (, July 16, 2005).

Philip Webster in The Times reported on July 6, 2006, that the House of Commons Cabinet sub-committee considering Games preparations has heard that the security budget (quoted here as £190 million) may have to more than double. London already has a surveillance network of 500,000 CCTV cameras. Consultant Mark Bostok of Arup, which undertook a cost benefit analysis of staging the Olympics, has stated that the security costs have not been properly estimated. Athens initial estimate for security was just over £71 million; the city's final security expenditure was just under £1.06 billion (L. Cohn, Business Week, August 15, 2005).

Rule 53 and ATCSA 2001

Political demonstrations will be banned on the Olympic site and in surrounding areas (IOC Rule 53). Anti-terror powers under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCSA) may be used even more widely to persecute and criminalise dissent, thus attacking the rights of free expression and association. These have already been used against anti-war protesters: in the run up to the US-UK attack on Iraq in March 2003, the police announced a wide stop-and-search zone around Fairford airbase to block protesters; at the DSEI Arms Fair in September 2003, police carried out a stop-and-search operation against those demonstrating. When challenged at the High Court, police argued that they needed no specific reason to target individuals under ATCSA 2001, and the court ruled that this interpretation was consistent with parliament's intention. Thus the law authorises arbitrary police powers.

Meanwhile, a new bill, currently under consideration in the Commons, if passed will allow ministers to create new criminal offences punishable with less than two years imprisonment, without a debate in parliament. John Spencer, a Cambridge professor of law, argues that this may be used to "introduce house arrest, give the police stronger powers of arrest and interrogation, [and] set up new courts" (M. Berlins, The Guardian, February 15, 2006).

Anti-terrorist policing is already undermining solidarity networks among emigres and refugees (Peirce, 2003), is written into policy statements at a local level and seeks to operate through emigre associations engaged in so called 'partnership working', a form of intimidation (Hackney Safer Communities Partnership, 2004). The UK has acted as a global vanguard of the 'war on terror' since 2001. Anti-terror legislation systematically undermines human rights and civil liberties. It targets migrant and Muslim individuals as well as political activists.

The use of anti-terrorism powers has now paralysed and terrified significant parts of the Muslim community in this country. [...] There has been an apparently random, open-ended series of arrests. All the arrested are Muslim and most are refugees. It is now [...] clear to the community that if you associate with anyone who has already been arrested here (or in their home country), then you yourselves become intensely vulnerable to arrest. [...] Special Branch officers have visited individuals and said 'Don't help the families of people detained or else!' [...] Even people who want to help families of those detained are seeking legal advice on whether that puts them at risk.
Gareth Peirce (2003) 'Terrorising Communities' in E. Schmid, & D. Morgan, A Permanent State of Terror (London) CAMPACC

Police in the Olympic boroughs have a continuing history of racist assault, including arbitrary arrest, house raids, stop and search, the planting of drugs, deaths in custody and the shooting of unarmed suspects. ATCSA powers renegotiate the basis of a police state founded as a counter in the war in the north of Ireland; the mass media have recomposed their racism and become embedded in a one dimensional process that stigmatises Muslims (fomerly the Irish) as terrorists.

There has been a twelve-fold increase in the number of UK Asians subjected to stop-and-search powers since the July 7 bombings in London (V. Dodd, The Guardian, December 24, 2005); searches had already tripled since the passing of ATCSA in 2001. The Guardian also reports (J. Randerson, January 5, 2006) that 37% of black men have their DNA profiles listed on the police's national database, compared with 13% of Asian men and 9% of white men. Under the promotional gloss of a multi-cultural London, a racist 'state of emergency' is reinventing itself, corrupting the quotidian and denying UN and EU charter guarantees (CAMPACC, 2003).

'Security' measures for the 2012 Olympics will intensify attacks on our democratic rights. These attacks include not only 'stop-and-search' as political harassment, but also a policy of 'shoot-to-kill'. After the public execution of Charles de Menezes, for example, Mayor Ken Livingstone commented that the police had acted correctly. Although he opposes British state terrorism in Iraq, unfortunately he accepts it here in London. Now we are all 'terror suspects', liable to be harassed, arrested or even murdered - especially anyone with a dark skin.
Les Levidow, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC)

In Mexico City, shortly before the start of the 1968 Olympics, 300 people (many students) were murdered by security forces at an extra-parliamentary demonstration. In Sydney, new laws gave police extra powers to enforce Rule 53 , while Athens 2004 saw a repressive mobilisation of military proportions. Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Prime Minister, announced a policy of 'zero tolerance' to counter protests around the Winter Olympics in Torino, February 2006 . Eleni Portaliou, of the Greek campaign Anti-2004, speaking at the Urban Forum on October 15, 2004, (a fringe event to the European Social Forum), stated baldly: "The Olympics are a continuation of war and competition by other means".

This essay is part of the Games Monitor briefing papers available for download from our Media Centre page.

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