People connected to Grunwick were spied on too
‘Strikers and Spycops’ is part of a series of Grunwick 40 memorial events, organised in co-operation with the Special Branch Files Project, the Undercover Research Group and the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS).
Since the exposure of Mark Kennedy as an undercover officer inside the environmental movement in 2011, many more so-called #spycops have been found out by the activists they spied upon.
We now know that since 1968, the Special Demonstration Squad infiltrated political and activist groups that they considered a threat, including the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, the Anti-apartheid movement and the CND.
We also know that prominent supporters of the Grunwick strike were bugged and followed and that there were attempts to infiltrate the strike committee.
There is now a judge-led Inquiry into Undercover Policing, the Pitchford Inquiry; should Grunwick strikers and their supporters be involved to find out more?
On 20 August 1976 a group of workers at the Grunwick film processing factory, led by the now famous Jayaben Desai, walked out in protest against their treatment by the managers.
And after Jayaben and her co-workers had spent a few months picketing outside the Grunwick factory, the cause of the Grunwick strikers was taken up by the wider trade union movement of the day. By June 1977 there were marches in support of the Grunwick strikers, and on some days more than 20,000 people packed themselves into the narrow lanes near Dollis Hill tube station.
Although the strike ended in defeat, today Grunwick, a very small factory in North London, is remembered for the way in which thousands of workers, black and white, men and women, came together to defend the rights of migrant women workers.
But today people supporting the Grunwick Strikers remember the heavy surveillance back then.
Jack Dromey, secretary of Brent Trades Council at the time of the strike, recalled: ‘I discovered after the dispute, from good policemen who talked to me in the thirty years since, that I was bugged at home, that the trades and labour hall was bugged, that there was a period that, we were followed, some of us in the dispute, and also attempts were made to infiltrate the strike committee, so there was a high degree of surveillance.
‘It was an extraordinary period of political paranoia, the security services tended to put two and two together and make Moscow.’
In 2006 the Metropolitan Police (the Met) released an inch-thick file on the Grunwick Industrial Dispute (1976-78), following a Freedom of Information request by journalist Solomon Hughes.
The Met confirmed the existence of six relevant files, but decided to only disclose part of the documents.
Ever since the Met have tried to bury the papers, even making previously disclosed files secret again.
What was released is now shared at the Special Branch Files Project, a live-archive of declassified files focussing on the surveillance of political activists and campaigners.
The Grunwick files consist of a collection of Special Branch reports, police reports, and additional memoranda, documenting the policing of the Grunwick pickets, surveillance of strikers and their supporters between June and October 1977.
On 15 February, Eveline Lubbers, from the Undercover Research Group; Solomon Hughes, the journalist who uncovered secret files on Grunwick; Harriet Wistrich, lawyer to people spied upon; Marcia Rigg from the Sean Rigg Campaign; and Kevin Blowe from Netpol will discuss political policing and how to respond to the Pitchford Inquiry.
To join them, click here.
To get up to speed with the story of Grunwick watch Hidden Herstories: Grunwick in a nutshell