There has rightly been shock and horror expressed from the British prime minister downwards following revelations that undercover police spied on the family of murdered Black teenager Stephen Lawrence 20 years ago to dig up stuff about their private life in an attempt to discredit them. What has not been disclosed so far is that this dirty tricks campaign by the State was launched a couple of years earlier and I, as the leader of Britain's leading anti-racist campaign, was one of the targets.
Picture this: a man bobbing between aisles in a Tesco supermarket taking a peek at me as I shopped. Then we spoke. He was a tall Black man in his late 20s, who claimed to be an off duty police officer.
“You’re Marc Wadsworth , aren’t you? The leader of the Anti-Racist Alliance,” he said. I confirmed his identification of me. It wasn’t a secret. I’d been spokesman for the ARA in Britain since its launch in November 1991, nine months after the racist murder of Rolan Adams, 15, on the Thamesmead estate in south east London, not far from where the fascist British National Party had set up shop.
My organisation was a national pressure group with a growing media profile campaigning for justice for the families of the victims of racist murders and attacks and the closure of the BNP’s “nazi bunker”. The feathers of incompetent cops - some would say racist bent ones - and their political masters had been ruffled by our finger pointing. I was astounded when the stalker cop alleged that the operation to spy on me round the clock, mounted by the Met Police’s Special Branch political wing, was being run from Brixton Police Station, a mile away from my south London home.
He said ordinary officers at the station, including him, had raised objections that someone who was not a criminal like me, was being tailed for no other reason than the fact that I was involved in high-profile anti-racist work. But the Special Branch was a law unto themselves and were able to use facilities at a police station without coming under the control of the local command.
My informant warned me to be very careful about what I did in my private life, including when I went clubbing. I should also be discrete about who I associated with because SB officers were digging for dirt with which to discredit me – a thorn in the side of the Establishment. Weeks later I saw the same man in uniform, and therefore realised he really was a police officer and not a crank. Judging by the amount of public money it was revealed was spent providing 24-hour protection at Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s south east London home, I estimate the police operation to watch me would have had an annual bill of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
What a waste of taxpayers’ cash – money and resources that should have been spent catching criminals, including the murderers of Stephen Lawrence, whose stabbing to death by racists in April 1993, I helped his parents, Doreen and Neville, turn into a cause célèbre. In the lonely early days of the Justice for Stephen Lawrence Campaign, when news media and politicians ignored the grievances raised.
I vividly remember the Establishment’s right-wing trumpet, The Daily Mail, attempting to smear me as a “black militant” who had “hijacked” the Lawrences for political ends. The paper famously did a “U” turn and went on to champion the cause, some people claim as a result of a visit to the home of the paper’s editor, Paul Dacre, by his ex-painter and decorator, Neville Lawrence. Rest assured, The-Latest.Com will use its vantage point to get to the truth about the snoopers. No long-drawn-out public inquiry, like Macpherson, that enriches lawyers and gets police and politicians off the hook, is needed. Just good, old-fashioned investigative journalism that gets to the bottom of this dirty episode in British policing.