Wednesday 19 January 2011

Mark Stone/Kennedy - Looking Beyond The Grassy Knoll

Despite the huge amount of coverage given to the Mark Stone/Kennedy affair in the mainstream media, UK Indymedia are STILL desperately trying to control and censor all discussion of the story. The ‘View all posts’ section of the UK Indymedia ‘Editorial Guidelines’ section is crammed with hidden posts and comments, most of which are deleted by the same moderator under the excuse of “non-news”. Other posts have been deleted completely and effectively erased from the internet. Who are these idiots? We will not be dominated, censored, and manipulated by a handful of stupid, power-crazed geeks. The following articles are just two that have been vigorously suppressed by UK Indymedia. Anon.

Mark Stone/Kennedy - Looking Beyond The Grassy Knoll

The case of undercover cop Mark Stone/Kennedy last week saw an epic feeding frenzy by the hyenas of the corporate media, who were supplied with plenty of info and ammunition by people within the activist movement. While these people, traitors or idiots depending on your perspective, had much to say to the journalists, there was almost no original comment on the Kennedy affair within the movement. Indymedia was clogged with corporate re-posts and stupid comments, including some which were sympathetic to Kennedy and at least one seeking journalistic cash. One of the very few exceptions was a piece authored by ‘The Boys From The Grassy Knoll’ and entitled ‘The View From The Grassy Knoll’.

The Grassy Knoll piece received very positive comments from ordinary activists and appears to be the basis for a statement on the Kennedy affair by Berlin Anarchist Black Cross. Yet it caused an unprecedented censorship campaign by Indymedia moderators, which was led by those who had uncovered Kennedy and their close associates. Not only was the article ‘hidden’ (i.e. removed from the Indymedia newswire) along with comments agreeing with it, but any re-posts were vigorously pursued across the worldwide Indymedia network and removed. This was however not enough for those trying to censor the Grassy Knoll piece. When articles are ‘hidden’ on Indymedia they still remain in some form and can therefore be found when using a search engine. Indymedia received a request from ‘114defence’ for a “full hide”, a complete and absolute removal of the post from Indymedia’s internet terrain. As with every other request received from the same milieu, Indymedia were happy to accede.

The reason given for this unprecedented Indymedia censorship was that the Grassy Knoll piece supposedly contained “highly personal info”. Does it? The article names only four people – Mark Kennedy, Simon Lewis, Sophie Stevens, and (in passing) John Jordan. Kennedy’s name is obviously well known, but so are those of Lewis and Stevens, thanks to their own self-promotion (Stevens even appeared on ‘BBC Newsnight’). Jordan is another avid self-promoter, but so far as is known is not linked directly to the Kennedy affair (he will be discussed later). The piece also names Kennedy’s boat, but that has been named previously on Indymedia, as it has been since in the corporate media, and what would activists care about that anyway? Looking over the piece it is hard to see where this damaging “highly personal info” is. More than likely Indymedia were accommodating a request from someone who was not happy with the article’s critical analysis and the portrait it paints of certain sections of the ‘eco-activist’ scene.

Like the earliest corporate articles the raw information on which the Grassy Knoll piece is based could very well have been taken from earlier postings on Indymedia itself. With Mark Kennedy having now sold his story to the ‘Mail On Sunday’ there is now a massive more amount of “highly personal info” in the public arena than has ever appeared on Indymedia, and certainly far more than was contained in the censored Grassy Knoll piece.

Kennedy quite clearly lies throughout the ‘Mail’ interview, but in the light of its publication, and in light of more serious corporate journalism, the analysis given in the Grassy Knoll piece is worth re-examining.

The claims made in the Grassy Knoll article, which some clearly agree with and others find controversial, can be broken down as follows:

1) That many good quality photos of Kennedy existed, and were in the possession of his close friends, which were not posted to Indymedia.

2) That one of the Ratcliffe defendants, Simon Lewis, contacted Kennedy sometime after he was uncovered as a cop and asked for his help.

3) The founder of the so-called ‘Clown Army’ John Jordan was a “Special Branch tout”.

4) That the group who uncovered Kennedy as a cop knew his whereabouts, but would not give them out to the general movement.

5) That posters on Indymedia have accused the group who uncovered Kennedy of some form of unspoken agreement whereby he would protect them as best he could and they in return would let him walk away, leave his boat alone, not post their archive of photographs and personal information to the net, and not disclose his whereabouts or those of his family.

Looking at these claims individually, in respect of Point 1, there have been numerous claims on Indymedia that there were hundreds of photographs of Kennedy in existence, many of which were on display at a 40th birthday party he held shortly before being unmasked. Some of those photos, much better than were posted to Indymedia, have appeared in the corporate press and on ‘Newsnight’. Indeed it would be strange if during seven years those closest to Kennedy did not accumulate photos of him. There also appear to have been many photos circulating on ‘Facebook’ and on a ‘69ers’ website set up specifically to display photos taken at Kennedy’s birthday party. It seems to this writer that it is probably true that many photos of Kennedy exist and that they are held (or were held) by his closest friends.

In respect of Point 2, Simon Lewis taped himself talking to Kennedy and these tapes were given to ‘BBC Newsnight’, so we know that this contact took place, and we know the nature of that contact. As has also been said in the Grassy Knoll piece we also know that the contact with Kennedy was at best unnecessary and has led the corporate media to spin the story so as to present Kennedy as sympathetic to those he spied upon.

To long-standing activists it would be surprising if the claim that John Jordan was a “Special Branch tout” was controversial. While involved with ‘Reclaim the Streets’ Jordan admitted to having had meetings with Special Branch, which continued even after he was told to stop speaking to them by fellow activists. From this writers point of view the facts surrounding the matter are well established and we should be suspicious of anyone trying to rewrite history in Jordan’s favour.

There have been repeated claims on Indymedia that Kennedy’s whereabouts were known around the time he was exposed. People close to his exposers have argued on Indymedia that they needed to protect his family from adverse attention, implying that their whereabouts (and his) were certainly known. Kennedy’s word counts for very little, but his account claims that he was tracked down to his home address in Ireland and telephoned there. It seems ridiculous that those he betrayed would just let him walk away without having any idea where he was going. According to Kennedy’s publicist Max Clifford, the ex-cop is currently holed-up near LA, and it seems unlikely that those who exposed him know his address, but it seems probable that at some point in the past they did know where he was, certainly at the very least they knew that he was in Ireland.

Various accusations that a deal or agreement was made with Kennedy were made by posters on Indymedia rather than by the Grassy Knoll article. This accusation has clearly caused upset, yet in the form presented in the Grassy Knoll piece is it really so unreasonable or so damning? We make unspoken agreements all the time, knowing for example that if we throw a brick at a cop on a demo we’ll be beaten to the ground, arrested, and sent to prison for a long time. Having lived alongside them for so long, Kennedy clearly knows a great deal about those he was spying on and vice versa. He would know lots of personal details and perhaps have information about misdemeanours not divulged to his bosses. Is it so unreasonable to assume that his exposers might be reluctant to do him all the damage they could in the hope that he will refrain from doing the same? Apart from exposing him, for which they deserve the fullest praise, this group of friends have said very little about Kennedy. As is claimed, they certainly let him go on his way unharmed, and there is evidence they deliberately sought to hide details of his boat. They have also certainly protected his family (much more than Kennedy has done.) Kennedy does not seem to have any ill will for this group, and the reverse is true in respect of some of them, and while he was prepared to publically name other activists in his interview, the group who exposed him were afforded anonymity. An uneasy ‘pax’ does seem to exist.

In view of the revelations since its publication, it may be time to take another look at the Grassy Knoll piece, and perhaps for Indymedia to re-examine the high-handed and censorious position they took towards it. Many of us foot-soldiers of the movement, rather than the high-flying movers and shakers, consider it contains some very sound analysis.

All Power Corrupts


A View From The Grassy Knoll

In recent days the media have been fixated with the tale of Mark ‘Flash’ Stone (real name Mark Kennedy), the undercover cop who for seven years infiltrated the environmental movement, and who supposedly ended up supporting the movement he was helping to destroy. This Hollywoodesque portrait of Kennedy as some downmarket Donnie Brascoe has appealed to lazy hacks out for a juicy story and denied contact with everyone involved except for a few low-rent media whores and outright traitors. Yet the truth is very different.

The early part of the unmasking of ‘Mark Stone’ will be familiar to activists, or at least the bare bones of it will. He was infiltrated into the movement in 2003, moving to Nottingham, going to the Sumac Centre a few times, and then turning up at that year’s Earth First! Summer Gathering where he began to become known. Over the next seven years he became a main player in the UK environmental movement, going on numerous actions, attending conferences and gatherings, and generally making himself useful, primarily as a driver. He also infiltrated or attempted to infiltrate other movements, both here and abroad.

The sleeping policeman’s downfall came sometime last year when his long-term girlfriend within the movement found a passport in the name of Mark Kennedy, ‘Stone’s real name. The passport also contained the details of a child. Kennedy span an elaborate tale to account for the find, which his girlfriend appeared to accept. Eventually though she spoke to friends about it, and after an investigation traced a birth certificate for the child which gave his father’s occupation as “police officer” (as his paternal grandfather had been) a rather disparate bunch of friends, six in all, confronted their erstwhile comrade. The undercover cop had obviously been trained in how to act if his cover was blown, and after his excuses fell on deaf ears, he burst into tears, seeking the sympathy of those he had so thoroughly betrayed.

The group questioned Kennedy; primarily about themselves it seems, but also about another suspected undercover cop, formerly based in Leeds. Controversially, Kennedy confirmed that she was part of the same unit. How long the questioning went on we do not know because the fruits of it, if there are any, have not been shared with the movement. Kennedy was allowed to go on his way unharmed.

In fact, far from being harmed or intimidated, immediately following the encounter, Kennedy was still so clear-headed, that he telephoned another long-term partner, who the Group of Six had failed to warn, confessed his occupation, and drove some distance with the aim of seeing her. She is merely one of many women within the movement who Kennedy exploited and betrayed during his seven years undercover.

Within days of Kennedy’s ‘outing’, a short piece appeared on Indymedia making his true identity public. There was also a photo of him wearing a large hat which covered his forehead, hair, and ears. This was later supplemented by a second photo, though this seems to have been regarded by many Indymedia posters as little better than the first. Among the incredulity, shock, and disbelief in the 174 comments (plus many more that were ‘hidden’, or censored, by Indymedia moderators) which followed the post were numerous requests for more information and better photos, requests that were for the most part met by irritation by the cognoscenti and their allies.

While many of the close friends and comrades of Stone/Kennedy, outside of the Group of Six, were in fact offered very little forewarning, support, or protection, there was much talk, both on the net and at a well-attended Anarchist Bookfair meeting, about protecting “those closest to him” and about the need for “security” (a bit like closing the barn door after the pig has already bolted). It appears to have been understood by many however, that further information about Kennedy would be made publically available, not least to ensure that his career as an undercover cop really was well and truly over. If assurances were made, as has been claimed, those assurances were broken, no more information has been provided to the movement by the Group of Six, and information posted to Indymedia by others has been subject to censorship at their direction.

Kennedy had lived at several addresses in Nottingham (and obviously elsewhere as a cop), but at the time of his fall from grace he was living on a canal barge he had bought at the beginning of 2010. The boat, called Tamarisk (of which there are several registered narrow boats), was moored close to Nottingham, and in lieu of Kennedy himself, was an obvious target for those he had betrayed. Members of the Group of Six, or others very close to them, apparently assured other activists that the boat would be dealt with. Instead however, it was allowed to simply sail away, much like Kennedy himself. The name of the boat was only exposed as frustrated activists became more and more angry at the lack of any further information about Kennedy and one of them posted it to a heated Indymedia thread, in which the Group of Six were accused of ‘protecting’ Kennedy. That post was ‘hidden’ following a request on the Indymedia moderation list (received on 10th January 2011) from “some of the people directly involved” for any reference to Kennedy’s canal boat, even its very existence, to be expunged from Indymedia. Now why would they want to stop people finding out about Kennedy’s boat?

The only thing surprising about the recent explosion of coverage of the Stone/Kennedy affair is that it took so long to happen. The story first appeared in The Sunday Times on the 19th of December 2010, with a particularly nauseating political slant, and an even more nauseating photo of the (thankfully disbanded) Clown Army. The piece appeared to be largely culled from Indymedia, and was reasonably sympathetic to both Kennedy and to the wet-end of the environmental movement who had clearly planted the story. As with the avalanche of coverage which would come a few weeks later, one of the common themes was the utter worthlessness of the UK environmental movement in terms of infiltration, a slant on the story that appears to have come from the environmentalists themselves and that they would later shamelessly parrot endlessly for the bourgeois media. The cops it seems should have been focussing their resources on less ‘fluffy’ activists than these “hippies and tree-huggers”.

It was the second Ratcliffe-On-Soar trial, which led to the real media frenzy. The story was that a group of protestors had planned to invade and occupy a power station at Ratcliffe, and Kennedy had been a key-player, and arguably an agent provocateur, in the operation. Naturally the cops were tipped off, and swooped arresting 114 activists, and Kennedy, while they were discussing the action at a meeting in Nottingham. Charges were eventually dropped against most of those arrested, including Kennedy of course, with 26 going on to face trial. Despite their knowledge of Kennedy’s involvement, the first group of 20 chose to fight the case on the basis of climate change and an appeal to the liberal sensibilities of the jury, a principled stand which resulted in them all being convicted. Through their lawyer, the remaining six challenged the prosecution’s lack of disclosure regarding Kennedy, and were discharged before their trial could even begin. Despite the media lie that would dominate coverage for days to come, the trial was NOT halted because Kennedy had offered to give evidence for the defence.

What had actually happened was that one of the 6 defendants, Dr Simon Lewis, an inveterate careerist and wealthy academic, but someone with a background in Reclaim The Streets, Earth First!, Dissent, and the Climate Camp (as well as a friend of Special Branch tout and Clown Army founder John Jordan), was so frightened of having his lucrative career damaged by an actual conviction that he contacted the cop, Kennedy, and appealed for his help, insisting that he never intended to go on any action in the first place (which to anyone who knows Lewis is entirely believable). In taped phone conversations which were later acquired by the BBC, Kennedy whines self-pityingly about how much he hates himself, before mumbling about possibly helping. This is as far as any help went. Kennedy’s assistance was of course not required anyway, it was his activities and the fact that they had not been disclosed that was important, not any assistance he might give to a grovelling sell-out like Lewis, someone who is happy to talk to cops to save his own skin.

The false story that the media seized on was that Kennedy had “gone native” and that the trial had collapsed because of his offer of help. It was a lie they were able to run with because of the assistance of traitors who have collaborated with the press, often they have been people who barely knew Kennedy personally. Either way, they have queued up to do the media’s bidding, with Simon Lewis’s posh girlfriend Sophie Stevens, an ‘activist’ with all the pedigree of a Hush Puppy, even appearing on Newsnight. While the media frenzy has been useful in terms of Steven’s CV, and the egos (and perhaps pockets) of the other media whores, the truth about Kennedy “going native” is that it has since transpired he is now working for a private security company.

Yet, despite its nauseating slants and untruths, many activists will have learned more from reading between the lines of the bourgeois media than they ever have from the supposed comrades who conducted the investigation into Kennedy and who have been steadfast in their refusal to disclose further photographs of him or any further information, including his whereabouts. While they may not have anything more to say to the movement, at least one of their number certainly had plenty to say to The Guardian.

Despite being an undercover cop, Kennedy’s vanity meant that he was always posing for photographs, there must be hundreds in existence, yet the Group of Six and their associates have repeatedly claimed they had none. Again, it’s funny how they were available to The Guardian.

Having been allowed to escape, Kennedy now supposedly lives abroad at a location known to the Group of Six, but which they have adamantly refused to disclose on the basis that Kennedy has a wife and teenage son who must be protected. This position is not only a dereliction of duty and an abuse of both power and of trust, but it is a vicious smear against the movement who they are implying are no better than TV gangsters. Such reactionary prejudice has at its basis the innate middle-class fear of ‘the other’, of the uncontrollable ‘mob’ who (in this case) cannot be trusted to deal responsibly and intelligently with information their betters hold safely in keeping. In this they have sided with a cop and with the state.

In the UK Mark Kennedy may have primarily engaged in political activity with ineffectual liberals, and indeed spent most of his time partying in the sleazy semi-retired eco-activist scene inhabited by those now protecting him, but he travelled widely, visiting 22 countries according to The Guardian, and in most of those countries he comported himself differently and mixed with a more militant class of activist. Some of those comrades certainly have more to lose than a few months on a probation order, yet they have been hung out to dry by a tiny clique of party-heads and one-time eco warriors in Nottingham. At the very least they deserve to know that Mark Kennedy is not living on the next street to them.

German activists recently uncovered their own undercover cop, it took them seven months rather than seven years, and the subsequent international press release contained as much information as they were able to gather, as well as excellent photographs. Kennedy spent long periods infiltrating German activist groups, and they are both shocked and astonished by the way things have been handled here. With questions being asked in the German parliament, they may eventually get more answers from the authorities than from their UK comrades.

Despite heavy censorship on Indymedia frustration among some activists is beginning to turn to anger, and the Group of Six have been accused of an unspoken agreement with Kennedy – That he would protect them as best he could, and that in return they would let him walk away, leave his boat alone, not post their archive of photographs and personal information to the net, and not disclose his whereabouts or those of his family. With every day such a theory becomes more compelling.

There is no doubt that Kennedy’s former close friends must be extremely distressed and traumatised by the events of the past six months, but those in the Group of Six have to realise that Kennedy’s activities have implications way beyond themselves, and that they need to behave with a sense of responsibility to the wider movement. Divesting themselves may also help take them towards closure in the affair, instead of prolonging it (by intervening on Indymedia for example). They did a good job in tracing Kennedy’s real identity, but it might then have been better to hand the matter over to other activists who were less emotionally involved. That they did not, and let Kennedy walk away, is unfortunately symptomatic of the middle-class ‘activist’, they never imagine that anyone might be better qualified than themselves. As for Kennedy, he should certainly not have got off so lightly.

Another preoccupation both of the press and of some activists has been how bad poor old Mark Kennedy (the cop who lied to those around him for seven years and betrayed his closest friends and comrades) must be feeling now. We neither care nor are interested. Kennedy supposedly spent his working days hanging from a rope, and we can only hope that one day justice finds him at the end of one.

The Boys on the Grassy Knoll

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