It’s not secret that at one point I’ve volunteered at Spartacus Books. However, what was a known secret was the fact that Spartacus Books was under surveillance. Due to difficulties in both paying the rent, combined with neighbour complaints at the old location, Spartacus Books needed to move. This meant that Spartacus had to close its doors for a month or two while it arranged the move, and it had to have a Grand Opening party. It turns out that this was the first instance of the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit investigating the store.
Spartacus Books, as its traditional role as a central hub of radical activity in Vancouver, has been thought to have attracted the attention of the authorities, namely those in Criminal Intelligence. However, despite the fact that the Access to Information request that I looked into spanned everything from 1973 to 2011, it seems that all I managed to get so far was this document from the V2010ISU-JIG.
We’ve seen surveillance of Spartacus Books mentioned earlier in my Privacy Act requests, as well as with the requests released by Dawn as well. However, we now understand the full extent of the surveillance. The thing with the Spartacus request is that I have an old archive of the Spartacus List and can tell you that they spied on the “Stencil Nation”</a> event for some reason or another. Their main interest, of course, was the Vancouver Anarchist Book Fair
The lesson to be learned by this is that while places such as Spartacus Books, Rhizome and others are good for open community organizing, that there is also the risk of attracting attention of the police. While I still believe that community spaces are critically important, I do think that these spaces should encourage people to practice good security culture at events, and perhaps adopt a sort of “please be mindful of what you say” statement, and a statement to the police that the intimidation of the state will not be tolerated. A safe space does mean that people should be safe from the fear of state repression, and I believe that encouraging security culture and taking a pro-active stance against the police and security agencies would be better than to just simply accept that there may be people listening who may seek to harm our community. There needs to be a better discussion on how to deal with surveillance and infiltration in movements, and how to deal about it in a way such that we avoid incrimination.
Again, here’s the file. This will most likely be the last release of the year. The CBSA files I got were blank, and I will be calling the Office of the Information Commissioner to ask why they feel that release is acceptable. You just can’t win them all.