In the last few weeks a UK anarchist named Mark Stone was exposed as an undercover police officer whose real name is Mark Kennedy. Even more recently, a Cardiff based anarchist, a 44 year old man identified by the guardian as Officer B, has also been exposed as a cop.
This has happened here in Aotearoa too. In December 2008, Rob Gilchrist, an anarchist and animal rights activist who I’d known since I was 17, was exposed as an undercover officer working for the Special Investigations Group.
I’m sure you don’t need me to recap all the ways that police informants damage revolutionary movements. It’s not just the obvious things like passing information on to the police and secret service. They also act as agent provocateurs at protests, inciting violence so the police can justify its own violence to the public. They also manipulate people into doing illegal things so they can get them arrested. They derail court cases. They screw up people’s personal lives and relationships. They earn people’s trust and friendship and then they violate that trust. They disrupt the movement by making us suspicious of each other and unwelcoming to new activists. So there’s good reason to be furious and disgusted that the state is using these tactics against us.
But there’s another very specific reason why reading about Kennedy makes me so furious and disgusted. It has to do with patriarchy, rape culture and abuse of police power.
Mark Kennedy had sex with at least one woman activist while he was undercover. Officer B had a 3 month relationship with a woman activist who had been his friend for several years. Rob Gilchrist had several relationships with women activists. In fact, it was his computer genius of a girlfriend who first discovered he was an informant.
I don’t know why any of these men chose to have sexual interactions with activists. Maybe it was part of the job, to gain their trust and that of their comrades. Maybe it was because they wanted sex, comfort, emotional support or whatever else it is people get out of relationships.
Regardless, this raises some questions about sex and consent. For consent to be meaningful in sex, the person has to know who it is they are consenting to have sex with. If a woman consents to sex with a man because he’s convinced her that he is a radical activist who is dedicated to the same struggles that she is, but actually he’s an undercover police officer who is dedicated to undermining those struggles, then that really isn’t meaningful consent.
Sex without consent is rape. Sex where consent is obtained through deception is called rape by deception.
I don’t know how any of the women who had sex with Kennedy, Gilchrist or Officer B define their experiences. I can imagine that finding out your lover is a cop who’s spying on you is unbelievably violating. As far as I know none of them have talked about what happened as rape. I’m not going to project my feelings on other women’s experiences or tell other women that they were raped if that’s not how they view what happened. But I certainly don’t think it would be outrageous to accuse Kennedy, Gilchrist or Officer B of rape.
I’m not sure what point I’m trying to make. That police abuse power they have over civilians? That men abuse power they have over women? That state repression is gendered? That gender oppression is upheld by the state? That’s not news.
I guess I feel the need to point out just how fucked up it is for male cops to have sex with women while pretending to be activists, because rape and abuse are so common that it’s easy to start taking them for granted and not even notice when they happen. But I want to notice. I want to feel furious and disgusted when women are violated like this.
 I want to clarify that I have exactly zero objections to people breaking the law. But I do hate it when they get caught, and just coz something is illegal doesn’t automatically make it the most tactical or radical thing to do in any given situation.