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Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Proposal for resisting the FIT teams

TAKE ACTION AGAINST THE COPS
TAKE ACTION AGAINST THE FIT TEAMS
30TH JUNE 2007 (1:30 onwards, University of London Union, Malet Street, London WC1)

A call for solidarity outside the next DISARM DSEi public meeting and every time there is a Forward Intelligence Team presence at a meeting or on a protest.

At the last DISARM DSEi public meeting, as with every other public meeting called by the group since 2002, there were police in attendance from the Metropolitan Police Service’s Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT).

For anyone who doesn’t know, these are the cops who are paid to harass anarchists (and the Far Right, football fans and Islamic fundamentalists). They follow “known” people on protests and they stand outside public meetings taking photos and writing copious notes.

The personal is political. Over the last six years I have been harassed, wrongfully arrested, assaulted and driven to a nervous breakdown as a direct result of the treatment I have received from the FIT teams. I know people who will not attend meetings or protests because they can’t deal with the FIT teams. I do not want to watch another person being driven to the edge by their actions. I do not want to hear of one other person being discouraged from joining our actions because of their behaviour.

Once and for all we need to admit they are a problem. We’ve spent too long ignoring them, pretending they don’t have an impact on us because of a belief that once they know they’re having an effect, they will become more powerful. However they know they’re having an effect and this is why they’re persisting. They get away with what they do because we let them. And whilst we continue to ignore their presence, we will never tackle the problem.

I feel a lot stronger since I have admitted this vulnerability and I now feel a pressing desire to reclaim their power. We have seen their behaviour fuck up our friends. We have seen the very real impact their presence has had on our movement. Isn’t it time we attacked this disease,this cancer which has afflicted us for years?

If we were being systematically tortured by the State, we would protest. Mental abuse is just as important and it is vital to the strength of our actions that we challenge this. This call to action and discourse is an attempt to kick start that challenge.

Over the last seven years, everyone who has attended a public (state perceived) anarchist meeting in London will have had their details recorded. This has both enabled the police to build up profiles of us over the years and has also made many newcomers feel uncomfortable about joining our meetings. Many people carry on walking when they see thecops.

It is argued that our meetings are already infiltrated and it is therefore a distraction to focus on the police outside. However the psychological effect of having them outside our meetings is damaging; damaging to both the experienced activists who feel harassment at their presence and to the people who do not even step inside the meeting because they don’t want their photograph taken.

The cops are so comfortable outside our meetings they think they don’t need back up. Four cops and a photographer feel safe outside our meetings. We have become too accepting of our own repression and this must change. We hold large demonstrations on behalf of others, on behalf of comrades in foreign jails. We must extend this solidarity to ourselves. We need to start dismantling the chains of our own oppression.

At the last Disarm DSEi public meeting, two people were arrested after trying to hold up placards whilst the cops were filming. Many people attending the meeting were inspired by the action and many commented they were happy to have been able to attend without having their photographs taken.

This proposal calls for solidarity demos outside every public meeting where there is likely to be a FIT presence. Every time the FIT team harass us, we must react. We must show them we will no longer tolerate this treatment. We must rebuild solidarity amongst groups. We may not want to get involved in the organising of every campaign, but we can spare half an hour to stand outside a meeting in solidarity with those in attendance. If we can spread this level of solidarity throughout the different groupscurrently experiencing harassment from FIT teams, then we are in a place to build a stronger, more effective, community.

Having a few persistent people with banners is a good start. However we should be aiming to get to the stage where it is prohibitively expensive for them to police our public meetings. We need to get to the stage that when they try to follow us through our demonstrations, people automatically link arms and prevent them from doing so. We are safer to the State if we stay as disparate groups. We are at our most powerful when we work in solidarity with each other.

This proposal can only start to work if we act in solidarity with each other. What are you going to do?

Further Action:This proposal is only meant to be a starting point. If there are enough people interested, it’d be good to have a cross group meeting to discuss strategies et cetera. This proposal is a personal response, it’d be good if different groups wanted to come together and write a joint proposal. For further information, networking, ideas etc email defycops@yahoo.co.uk

Join the email list by sending a blank email to fitwatch-subscribe@lists.riseup.net

A blog has been set up with the aim of becoming a resource for peopletrying to resist the FIT teams. People are invited to add theirexperiences, ideas, photographs, information – www.fitwatch.blogspot.com. Anyone can add comments to the blog, but anyone can be added as an author who wishes to contribute regularly.

23 comments:

Kevin said...

I agree with your point that FIT is a tactic designed to frighten people, and I congratulate you on having the bravery to confront that fear and speak up about it. The FIT tactic is most certainly about fear and deterrence, and its purpose is to repress through mental trauma.

Being followed and filmed without your consent is a subtle form of assault, a denial of your human rights. It has interesting parallels with the recent Scientology And Me Panorama special, where Scientologists conspicuously videoed people as a deterrence and intimidation tactic. Similary, if a gang wants to scare people on their turf legally, all they have to do is stand around in clear view, and let people's imaginations do the menacing for them.

Here's my humble suggestions for dealing with the FIT team:

Nonviolence, legality and discipline
Apologies for this no-brainer but I felt it worth mentioning anyway. Violent and clearly illegal actions will merely play into the hands of the FIT squad; They are perfecly suited to tackle such. A nonviolent (always) demonstration which breaks no laws (where at all possible) starves the FIT team of value and purpose. Discipline is crucial in order to ensure violence doesn't break out.

Knowledge
Of the rules the FIT team must operate under, their jurisdiction and their limitations. Are they allowed to film through windows or doorways? Are they allowed to trespass in gardens? What comes under the Data Protection Act? Can their own film be used in evidence against illegal acts by the police?

Friendliness
This requires a lot of empathy and love (of the peace style), and is therefore quite hard to do. It requires that you do not consider the FIT team to be your enemy - maybe they want to bring peace to the streets and get the job done well, then again maybe they have taken this issue personally, and because you haven't you are already more powerful, more in control.

Be unfailingly, genuinely nice. Offer them cake. Try to establish a conversation, let them know you're not interested in the sort of hate and violence they were supposedly set up to counter - indeed that's why you want to stop the propagation of weapons of war. At best they give in and let you give them a tour of your group and let them keep some literature, and they'll leave with a slight crisis of conscience.

Even if they refuse to communicate, your friendliness and fearlessness breaks their palor of intimidation, diminishing their effectiveness in a way that's entirely legal, while eroding their morale and interest in opposing you. If the team turns hostile or abusive, ensure your own cameramen are present to record their actions in order to show them to their superiors (or YouTube).

Ridicule
Worth mentioning, though I'm not a big fan of this approach as it is bound to turn the FIT team into your enemies, and make them want to take revenge by doing anything in their power. But it's better than violence or just trying to ignore them.

Hang in there - fear and repression are no match for courage, love and solidarity. Good luck.

Kevin

Anonymous said...

That really is the best option - don't do anything unlawful, either by breaking laws or breaking the conditions of High Court injuctions. That way the FIT have little to do. You may find that this renders your demo inefective but hey - that's the democartic process!

Anonymous said...

Staying legal and non-violent - oh if only it were that easy.
I’m all for people taking action in any way they like – and if that is non-violent and legal, then that is all well and good and I wish you luck.
Sadly, I fear it is necessary to step beyond what is legal in order to deal with the FIT. That's because whenever anyone does anything effective that is legal, they change the law in order to make it illegal. It is precisely because the police have such huge wide-ranging and draconian powers that we are attempting to take them on in the first place!
As for violence, well, it is always down to the individual how they respond to police harassment. The FIT don’t seem to mind using violence against us, after all. Personally (and this is just a personal view) I’m all for using whatever tactics you can get away with…
Knowledge…
…the police can lawfully take pictures in any public place in just the same way as we can. It is a debatable point as to whether they can use force to do this, or whether they can lawfully arrest someone who obstructs this.
…the footage is supposed to be used only to identify people in relation to criminal offences, and as an aid to policing on the day in question. They are not supposed to keep it for other purposes (although we know that they do). It is subject to data protection act, but the police have a get out in that they can refuse disclosure if it is not in the ‘public interest’, and in that they can claim that the footage has been routinely destroyed. They can film anywhere that is public, or has been made open to the public (ie any public meeting).
Friendliness…
Oh they will love this one. They keep telling me what friendly people they are, and how they just want to get to know us better. They will happily engage you in conversation all day, and will take away information on your views, your commitment, your private life etc, that will all contribute to building your profile. In my view conversation with the FIT team should be limited to two words. One beginning with F and the other with O.

Anonymous said...

A question:
what is the exact legal position on photographing them while they are photographing us?

I am a photographer and,
trivial though this may sound,
on top of all the many other reasons why the FIT's use of photography is evil, I also consider it an abuse of one of my favourite art forms.

So ... I intend to use it against them.

There is a good article here which says that photographing the police in a public place is legal: I'm sure it's correct.
I'm more interested in the practical ramifications.
For example, are they likely to try to use POTA or similar legislation to try to arrest/harrass me?

Thoughts? ...

Anonymous said...

P.S. I like the "Friendliness" idea too:
I might bake them some cakes.
(Yes, really).

Barney said...

Dear Anonymous,

Photographing the fit in public is legal, but it may annoy them.

One of my experiences of doing just that is documented here.

I have photographed them on many other occasions, none of which directly led to arrest.

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much Barney.

All noted.

Me and my zoom telephoto lens will try to be there.

Anonymous said...

Why not attack FIT on an economic basis? I'm sure those fancy cameras are pretty expensive...

Kevin said...

Cake-making anonymous: That was a wonderful response to hear.

Indeed it is true that an untrained demonstrator that converses with the FIT team could give away things they shouldn't. But someone with that training, plus communication and PR skills could present a positive image of the demonstration (assuming no-one's smashing stuff in the background) to the team, making them less antagonized and therefore less likely to want to cause trouble. Also, friendly dialogue will erase their intimidating aura.

Has anyone asked a policeman or woman what they think of the DSEi and the international arms trade? Or what they think of the protest? It would be interesting to get their reply, especially if it was filmed.

On attacking FIT cameras: My apologies for being so critical, but even if done by, say, water pistols it would still result in arrests and fines. The loss of a camera (and they're pretty cheap these days) would be more than made up for by the fine and the successful arrest, which would be fully justified as police assault.

On violence

This is an appeal for demonstrators to resist the temptation to use violence, and for groups to implement a non-violence policy.

The most powerful and effective campaigns have been as nonviolent as possible, and highly disciplined - the Civil Rights Movement, the EDSA Movement, the Coloured Revolutions, the Indian independence movement, to name but a few. Wikipedia those babies, there's great reading in there.

There are short-term, clear advantages of violent action in demonstrations, yet those are vastly outweighed by the long-term, not-so-clear disadvantages. The plus-points are:

* Violence is easy to understand and utilize, requiring little organization, discipline or training. Indeed it usually comes about because of a lack of those qualities.
* It generates a lot of publicity
* People enjoy committing and watching violence. It also makes the movement feel like its achieved something.

And the problems:

* The publicity is negative. The media will also tar the entire demonstration with the same brush, blotting out any positive publicity gained from nonviolent action.
* It justifies the FIT presence and gives them all the ammunition they need to make arrests and massively increase police presence.
* Violence makes the demonstrators look no better than the peddlers of violence they oppose - all high ground is lost.
* Violence strips the cause of popular support - people simply don't want trouble taking place in their back yard. Members of the community that would otherwise support the movement would have to support the police. Any policemen and women who support the cause would have to become the enemy.
* All levels of government will oppose the movement at all costs - they cannot be seen as giving into violence. They will spend much more money on controlling this threat to society.
* Violence ups the ante, right to the top. Negotiation, dialogue, nonviolent coercion and nonviolent direct action, none of those things would be available.
* If the violence becomes endemic, the movement would lose its way - violence becomes the goal, not what what's being campaigned about.

And, if you don't mind more bullet points, my case for nonviolence.
* Nonviolent actions are usually very positive and community-oriented. It's always easier and more pleasant to carry out positive campaigns, like street theatre, cake making etc. Where violence is divisive, nonviolence is inclusive and builds solidarity.
* Nonviolence can be open. There's less to hide. Less paranoia about undercover police spies and the movement can be much more friendly and accessible.
* Movement membership can be extended to those who would ever join a violent cause - which is most people
* Nonviolence can operate under the radar - right up to the moment it unfurls its banners and fills the streets.

Thanks for listening, and any feedback would be gratefully received.

Anonymous said...

Hey - read the articles that Barney has posted about his experience annoying the FIT teams. It looks like a really useful use of his time!

Anonymous said...

Kevin
I take issue with your assurtion that 'the most powerful and effective campaigns have been as nonviolent as possible'

This is naive amd simply untrue.

Furthermore this is neither the time or the place for this old discussion.

Educate yourself a little about history and current affairs, perhaps check out Ward Churchill & Mike Ryan's 'Pacifism as Pathology'

Then have this discussion elsewhere. Thankyou.

Kevin said...

Anonymous person not happy with my posting on nonviolence: Understood. I consider it relevant because the issue of whether to be nonviolent or otherwise is going to be one of those choices people who go up against the FIT will have to take. My view on this is pretty clear. But I've said my piece and won't labour it further. Thanks for the info on a viewpoint critical of nonviolence - I will indeed check it out.

Anonymous said...

some further info critical of dogmatic non-violence can be found in Non-Violence and its Violent Consequences: http://www.sinkers.org/nonviolence/

personally I would be completely against any kind of requirement that anti-FIT actions be non-violent. While deliberately kicking off and provoking police violence is generally a mistake (tho there are exceptions), the cops rarely need protestor provocation to be violent if they want to be.

to address your points specifically:
- "Non-violence is not divisive": well, yes, it is. Take the division occuring in this very discussion for starters and extend it to the discussions that have taken place in every political movement in the 20th century (and before.)
- "Non-violence can be open": only if you're taking action you don't mind the police finding out about. Clandestinity and militant action are not necessarily contradictory to pacifist beliefs, but do require some level of secrecy (e.g. the more high-level Ploughshares actions.)
- "Most people would never join a violent cause": bollocks. Check out the Miner's Strike and the Poll Tax Riot for starters. Similarly, the anti-capitalist movement continued to grow through the late nineties and early two thousands in spite of (because of?) the militancy and violence involved in many of the demonstrations. Very few people share the "all or nothing" approach to violence most pacifists seem to take.

Discussions on a purely theoretical basis can and have taken years and resulted in countless books and essays. For this particular campaign, however, it is only of use in forming some "ground rules" within which to work, which means finding a basis from which everyone can operate - neither black bloc nor pacifist.

- rasputin
(ps: some more thoughts here: https://publish.indymedia.org.uk/en/2007/06/374536.html )

Anonymous said...

gah. by "neither black bloc nor pacifist" at the end of my post I meant that the guidelines we use should be neither black bloc nor pacifist, ie not committing to one approach or the other - not that both black blocers and pacifists should be excluded, which it could be read as. apologies.

- rasputin

Kevin said...

More great links to differences of opinion on nonviolence - I'm grateful for it, and will read the information readily and with an open mind, as indeed I hope you approach any arguments regarding nonviolent action.

I would attempt to defend my earlier postings and indeed I could, as well as provide counters to Rasputin's responses. But you are right, this has all been covered before, and pretty much all I'd have to say can be found in Sword Of Truth:
http://trainingforchange.org/content/view/113/33/
a pragmatic rebuttal of and companion to Pacifism as Pathology. Go read it, it's brill :) If anyone wants to continue this discussion, maybe the blogger could arrange a comment space of our own.

Back on topic, here's one more option for dealing with the FITs. I make no apologies for it being nonviolent and possibly against anarchist principles (ie. working with the law).

The FIT seem to have the law on their side, but that can be employed against them just as it can be employed against the regular police. Find out exactly what laws and regulations the FIT have to comply with and adapt your tactics accordingly, minimizing risk of arrest and possibly getting FIT members in trouble if they break those rules (remember to have someone with a video camera handy!). Sadly that probably means paying for a lawyer, although there could be some out there that are passionate enough about ending the DSEi etc. that they could provide advice for less, or free. It's no big deal if the government do later change the rules - just learn what those changes are and alter your tactics again.

BTW, definitely ensure people on your side are videoing the demonstration. If you do go the nonviolent route, cops start the violence, and someone is around to tape it, you've just hit paydirt. In the unlikely event that this doesn't hit the headlines, there's always the almighty YouTube.

Anonymous said...

heya,

first, just as a sidenote - "the *unlikely* event this doesn't hit the headlines"? mate, the cops beat up people who ain't being violent all the time - sometimes at demos - and the media don't give a fuck. sorry, but in itself, cops beating non-violent protestors isn't news. not saying it *can't* be, just that it isn't in itself.

as for your post...

I want to make it clear, I have no problems with non-violent tactics per se. one of the most inspiring people I have met through activism was Keiran O'Reilly of the Pit Stop Ploughshares, a thoroughly committed pacifist who is entirely pragmatic, generally straightforward, and willing to put his liberty where his mouth is.

I do have a problem with people attempting to enforce their particular tactical view on others as I feel it to be unethical, divisive and close to vanguardism ('we have the perfect strategy and we must lead the others forward'). I do accept, however, this does not make up the majority of the pacifist movement.

as for your proposal...

I think you put way too much faith in the police force, both in terms of its ability to stick to the law (a friend of mine got some pringles tubes confiscated as offensive weapons, I know of someone nicked for having a marker pen on them - basically the cops will do as they do and to a certain point the law is irrelevant) and in terms of its ability to self-correct (see: police racism in spite of all the post-Lawrence repentance rituals).

and while news-making it ain't, videoing demos is a good idea (provided you take steps to disguise peoples' identities prior to making it public) both for media's sake (YouTube, Indymedia, etc.) and as evidence against the cops in the event of someone getting nicked.

- rasputin

Anonymous said...

How did the Action go - we need an update.

Arcangel said...

I agree about the Tactical nature of the problem..
and i'm ok with the non violence thing.
but I think a little more research into electrical interference stuff, sound wave emitters, phone jammers, EMP. ok emp is pushing it, but it is potentially a non violent device, designed to fry all electrical devices. Period.

positioned wirelless camera's, can download straight to your laptops. magnetic bugs can be used for conversations, hey how deep down this rabbit hole do you wanna go.
we can use their tools against them.

we need dedication teams to run with this.

Anonymous said...

In Cuba we had police and army at many of our meetings. We tried many tactics but in Cuba the police do not have the same laws to work with as here in the Britain. We were beaten and our homes attacked after meetings by the same army who watched us at the meetings.

Your work is very good to stop your country being like Cuba

Human Rights Watch worker said...

The posting by an anonymous poster concerning the situation in cuba is a good reminder of how bad things can get if we don't stand up to this sort of intimidation right now before it reaches the level it is for Human Rights protestors who defy the Castro regime. I doubt Brown would go as far ias Castro had is stopping political dissent but then again.....

Anonymous said...

Would the poster who talked about his / her experiences in Cuba resisting the tactics of Castro's police and security monitoring care to share some of the techniques that are used there to resist this. I know the major human rights groups working in Cuba have had some success avoiding the constant harrasement and filming that the Cuban police use against them.

Anonymous said...

Would it not be "nice" to arrange meetings in places with two (or more - as many as possible really) entrances. Tell all attendees that they can use differrent entrances. At the very least the FIT lot would have life made much more inconvenient by needing 2,3 or more teams of 4.

Anonymous said...

This is a fnatastic distraction - all the energy put into 'resisting' policing is energy not put into whatever good cause you are supposed to be supporting - or is the purpose simply to be 'anti' ?