The storm around Lush’s spycops campaign shows exactly why it’s needed

Lush spycops campaign poster and a banner for the Camapaign Opposing Police Surveillance
Glen Black

Social and news media hit fever pitch yesterday following the launch of a campaign by Lush. But the public response – including by police officers themselves – shows exactly why the campaign is so badly needed.

In-store displays, created in partnership with campaigners Police Spies Out Of Lives, highlight the abuses by undercover police officers against activists and social justice campaigners. The Undercover Policing Inquiry, which was set up to investigate these abuses is beset with problems. These problems led to participants and lawyers walking out of a hearing in March to show lack of confidence in its chair, John Mitting, and the approach the inquiry is taking.

“Utterly dystopian”

One tweet, by chair of Cambridgeshire Police Federation Liz Groom, went down like a lead balloon. The tweet proudly talked of a Lush store in Peterborough removing its window display after a visit from the police:

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But environmental campaigner Adam McGibbon’s response hit the nail on the head:

And other replies highlighted the hypocrisy of Groom’s tweet:

A response by @ARspycatcher pointed out the biggest irony of all. Cambridgeshire’s former deputy police and crime commissioner, Andy Coles, was a former undercover police officer. He resigned as police commissioner when he was exposed as a spycop in 2017:

Bad apples

Some people have been defending the police in light of Lush’s campaign. Many responses focus on the good work done by ‘frontline officers’:

Even home secretary Sajid Javid took time out to misinterpret the campaign. Although as the Network for Police Monitoring pointed out, this is the first time him, or his predecessor Amber Rudd, have bothered commenting on the case:

These types of responses say more about the public awareness of the case than the campaign itself. The campaign clearly highlights that its focus is the spycops campaign, mentioning it multiple times in the display.

Other people, including journalist James Ball, derided the campaign as a cynical marketing ploy:

But he was quickly corrected:

But let’s not forget that many police forces across the country have a history of actions that harm rather than serve the public.

For example:

  • Revelations show that more than 900 trials in 2017 collapsed because police failed to disclose evidence.
  • The charity Inquest reports there’ve been 1,079 deaths in police custody since 1990.
  • An August 2016 article by The Canary details extensive police corruption against journalists.
  • Police forces are still accused of racism. Figures from the Metropolitan Police show that 22,989 of 62,000 uses of force in 2017/18 involved Black people
  • Home Office data from 2017 shows that Black people are eight times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.
  • In 2015, a report found that “forces are at risk of discriminatory strip-search practices” against African-Caribbean people.

Seems like there’s a lot of bad apples.

Something to be thankful for

For many, the police hold an almost sacred role in society. One that is above criticism. But there are plenty of cases and evidence showing the police are no less prone to corruption than any other organisation.

What’s different about the police, though, is they wield a great degree of systemic and social power. And that makes holding them to account all the more important. That’s why Lush’s campaign supporting Police Spies Out Of Lives is so important.

Ironically, with their furious response, police officers and spycop apologists have done more to promote the campaign than Lush ever could have done itself. So maybe we should thank them after all.

Get Involved!

Leave Lush a nice review on Facebook. Or better yet, go to your local store and share your support with the staff directly.

Support Police Spies Out Of Lies, the organisation behind Lush’s campaign.

Check out more stories about the undercover policing inquiry on The Canary.

Learn more about a world without police in The Lockdown’s podcast with Alex Vitale, author of “The End of Policing”.

Featured image via Lush and Emily Apple

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