Covert South Welsh police unit “tried to recruit Black Lives Matter activists to be moles and spy on protesters”

  • Lowri Davies claims to be able to claim that she had a 90 minute meeting with South Wales officers
  • They needed information about the BLM protests as well as the far-right.
  • The young student was told not to tell anyone about this recruitment attempt 

The campaigner claimed that a covert police unit used distressing tactics to recruit a Black Lives Matter activist as a mole.

Lowri Davies alleges that officers in South Wales spent an hour-and-a-half trying to manipulate her into providing information about the movement and its protests, and whether the far-right could cause violence at anti-racist demonstrations.

Officers also advised her not to tell anyone about the recruiting attempt.

The rendezvous took places “where nobody’s going to see you with them” and Miss Davies was taken around Swansea. There she was asked about her family. She was then told she’d be rewarded if she provided certain information.

However, the Guardian has now obtained a recording of a first phone conversation between her & an officer. This is the first public evidence that police tried to approach an informant in the BLM movement.

After the experience, she described it as ‘incredibly frightening’ and distressing and said that it had a traumatic impact on her mental health. Lawyers filed a complaint to the force.

A Black Lives Matter protest march going through Regent Street in London in June last year

In June 2013, a Black Lives Matter protest marched through Regent Street, London.

Miss Davies, a law student in her early 20s, told the paper: ‘If the police are so against racism, like they say that they are, then why are they trying to get informants from groups that are saying that racism is bad?

“If they believed that, they wouldn’t be asking me to be an intelligible, but they would be saying, ‘we really support your work’ and leaving me alone.

Frank Matthews, a former Scotland Yard detective, said that her suspicion was well-founded.

He said, “Why would you approach Black Lives Matter activists to get information about far right?” It doesn’t make sense. 

The revelations will pile more pressure on police amid what some consider  to be unjustified surveillance of political groups engaged in protests.

A public inquiry into undercover policing recently pledged to ‘get at the truth’ and reveal the full facts about the tactics used over decades by police spies.

Kat Hobbs, a spokesperson for Network for Police monitoring, a civil liberties group which has investigated how BLM protests have been policed, told MailOnline: ‘Lowri is incredibly brave for coming forward after police attempted to recruit her as an informant. 

“Given the response of the police to the growing power and influence of the BLM movement it’s likely that many others have been intimidated. This may not be the end of the story. 

“South Wales Police targeting a non-violent community group protesting 2 recent deaths in police custody is surprising, but unfortunately not surprising. Black-led groups, which include families who have lost loved one, have often been the target of intrusive surveillance aimed to shut down resistance to violence and racism by police.

“Particularly irritating in this instance is the police’s cynical promise of taking action against local far-right counter-protesters in exchange for information about the group’s activities. 

“Netpol’s report about the policing response to Black Lives Matter highlighted once more the systemic racism of the UK’s police response. Among the list of failures, the police’s willingness and ability to protect and facilitate counterprotests, including those where BLM protesters were subjected to physical violence from the far left, stands out.   

Police at the scene of a protest in front of Winston Churchill's statue in London last summer

Police responding to a protest at Winston Churchill’s statue, London, last summer

MailOnline was informed by a spokesperson for Miss Davies’s police force that it had approached her. He said: “South Wales Police will not confirm or deny any details in relation to the matter.”

“A complaint has been received regarding contact made by a covert officers. This matter is currently being reviewed by the Professional Standards Department of the force. It would be inappropriate to comment further.

Police forces across the country use informants to protect the public. They are used within strict legal guidelines by trained, specialised staff. The accountability and protection for the informant is paramount.

“Protest organizers have an obligation of liaise to police forces and South Wales Police has proven track record in working alongside organisers to facilitate lawful demonstration while minimising disruption to wider public.