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Friday, 30 November 2007

First FITwatch trial ends in NOT GUILTY verdicts

The second day of the trial of 2 protestors arrested outside ULU in Malet Street, ended with both defendants being found not guilty by a District Judge. The arrests of a woman and a 14 year old youth followed their attempts to obstruct the civilian cameraman, who was filming people as they arrived for a planning meeting for protests against the DSEi Armsfair which took place at the ExCeL centre in Docklands in September 2007.
Despite bringing in a senior prosecutor, the CPS were unable to secure any convictions. Both protestors were charged with "obstructing a police constable in the course of his duty", whilst the woman also faced a charge of assult on a PC.
From the time that the Forward Intelligence Team arrived outside ULU in April, the 2 protestors set out to obstruct the camerman who was filming people going into the meeting. They followed him around, and constantly put their banners, which read "No cameras" in front of his lens. This led to a decision to move him onto a set of steps on a building across the road from ULU. 4 officers then formed a cordon across the steps, and the protestors continued to hold the placrds up in front of the camera. This continued for some time, until people left to attend the meeting. By the time they had crossed the road and entered ULU, both protestors were seized and shortly after , were handcuffed and taken to a police carrier.
A succession of police officers took the stand, and almost every one claimed that the protestors were "BARGING" into the police officers, in order to get at the camera. The officers also echoed the same line about the arrests (neither of which actually took place until the protestors were inside the carrier), claiming that they had grabbed hold of the 14 year old as the 2 were escalating their tactics, and that they feared a breach of the peace. In light of this, 2 officers grabbed hold of the 14 year old, and restrained him using a fair amount of force. When the woman tried to intervene, she too was grabbed and restrained. PC Palfrey who grabbed hold of her claimed that he was kicked whilst restraining the woman.
Ironically, it was FIT's own video which proved to be the undoing of the cops. Whilst all the officers who took the stand presented a unified account of what happened, not one of them was able to show where the actions took place in the video. Furthermore, contrary to the claims that the 2 had escalated their tactics after the others went into the meeting, the video showed the 14 year old standing still and calmly when he was suddenly seized by the 2 officers.
The video also showed that it was old favourite Steve Discombe (pictured), who appeared to order the arrest. The video also cast doubt on PC Palfrey's claim of assault. The prosecution was unable to produce evidence that any police constable was obstructed in the course of their duty, and both defendants openly acknowledged that they had intended to obstruct the civilian cameraman.
A further 2 trials are scheduled to take place at Uxbridge Magistrates Court in the New Year. Both defendants face the "obstructing a PC" charge, even though both defendants were clearly intent on obstructing the civilian cameraman outside the Climate Camp earleir this year. One of the defendants has managed to get the court to agree widespread disclosure. My guess is that FIT are less than happy this evening.
(original post on indymedia at

Monday, 26 November 2007

PROTESTERS TO CHALLENGE LEGALITY OF POLICE SURVEILLANCE

This week, two separate court cases will challenge the legality of police surveillance. Both cases involve two women who are accused of obstructing the police in the execution of their duty.


The women believe their cases have significant relevance in a week where the State has shown itself to be incapable of handling confidential data in a safe and responsible manner.

Emily Apple from Cornwall, was arrested at the recent Climate Camp for standing in front of a police cameraman who was attempting to take photographs of protesters at the camp.She is on trial at Uxbridge Magistrates' Court on 27th November.

Valerie Swain from Cardiff, was arrested under similar circumstances outside a planning meeting to oppose the world's largest arms fair. She is on trial at Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court on 29th November.

Both women will argue that the overt surveillance is intimidating and is illegal under Human Rights legislation.

Valerie Swain said: “It is unacceptable in any sort of free society that police are permitted to build up secret files on people who attend political meetings. I will argue they cannot possibly begin to justify the intrusion of privacy that has taken place.”

Emily Apple said: “The surveillance of the Climate Camp was intrusive and unnecessary. The police operation cost over £7 million. It is important to the future of political protest that we challenge this infringement of our basic human rights.”

Both women are available for interviews and photographs of the original arrests can be provided on request.


Emily Apple: emapple(at)riseup.net
Valerie Swain: val.swain(at)yahoo.co.uk

Court support and any FIT Watch activites are welcome at both trials.

For further information see www.fitwatch.blogspot.com

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Video of Fitwatch at Bash the Rich

video

Comment on this vid from the blog of 'Bash the Rich' Ian Bone...

"Buy this woman a fucking pint! Fitwatch is showing the way to resist cop bullying - well fucking done……..lets have some more of this next time with more fucking support."

Cheers for that, Ian. And all pints gratefully received.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Quick thoughts from Fitwatch at Bash the Rich

I’m sure other reports will follow, but this is my two-pennyworth. This is the first time we have attempted an organised Fitwatch action on a demo, and clearly we didn’t get it all right. But Class War were supportive of the efforts that we made (thank you!) and it was a good start. Changing a culture of acceptance to one of resistance is clearly going to take some time, but you have to start somewhere.

At the beginning of the demo as people were amassing, Fitwatch unravelled a large (and I must say brilliantly designed) banner. This did two things really well - it made people aware of who we were and what we were doing, and it gave a FIT photographer a pretty hard time getting his ‘start-of-demo’ pics. The banner was great in a static situation, and the police were clearly frustrated that they couldn’t get that nasty about a banner being held on a protest – particularly in front of the press.

Once the march moved off, however, it was a lot harder to frustrate the cameramen. For a start there were two of them, and not enough of us. They were also well protected by their TSG minders, who were only too happy to use force to keep Fitwatchers away from the photographers and back in the pen. The large banner was difficult to manoeuvre quickly enough to stay with the photographers, and the smaller flags that we had, too small to be effective unless you could get close. Despite all that, we still had a fair crack at them.

In the end two Fitwatchers who had been obstructing cameras were arrested attempting to get out of the police pen (admittedly at different times and for different reasons). But I wouldn’t want people to see Fitwatch as something that inevitably leads to arrest. For those who don't want to take that risk, it would have really helped on the day to have had more support in less confrontational ways – holding a banner, handing out flyers, taking notes and pictures etc.

Our flyers, admittedly a little confrontational (well what do you expect at a Class War demo?) had a mixed reception. Some loved them, others were nervous to carry such ‘dodgy’ literature. But really there is no getting away from the confrontational nature of what we do. The police are never going to like us for frustrating their intelligence gathering, no matter how we go about doing it.

Overall, given the difficulties, I think we did ok. Better next time.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Bash the Rich - Hospitalise the FIT

Mildly amusing, informative and suitably inflammatory Fitwatching flyer for Bash the Rich demo.

Have you ever been stopped and searched by FIT?

Have you been stopped and searched by the FIT? Do you still have a record of your search?


This is a FIT Watch request to look through the forms and see whether you have any names and numbers of cops, as their names and numbers should be on the form.


Please email any details to defycops@yahoo.co.uk or post to www.fitwatch.blogspot.com

Fit for what purpose?

Fit for what purpose?

Bail conditions imposed upon a FIT Watch activist for allegedly causing £1 of criminal damage:

  1. To live and sleep each night at an address which doesn't exist. The road is misspelt and a letter has been interchanged for a number on the postcode.

  2. “Not to come within enter the M25 motorway except to attend a legitimate court date or meetings with legal representatives and only with written notice.”

Not wishing to pedantic, this bail condition simply means she is not allowed on the M25. This is not problematic. She has no intention of going anywhere near the M25 and doesn't think either her solicitor's offices or courts are on the M25.

3.“Not to interfere with witnesses. When her bag was searched in the custody office a document was found to have photographs of police officers who had been involved with her in the past. It can only be assumed that details are being amassed on targeted officers to limit their ability to be a witness.”

This she finds amusing. She wishes FIT Watch were having this much impact. She thinks it's fantastic to believe our actions are making the cops reluctant to attend court. However she doesn't. She believes this is a petty attempt at intimidation and stopping FIT Watch.

It is also a meaningless condition. She does not know who the witnesses are, having not received any disclosure on the case. She thinks Neal Sinclair filmed her arrest, so he may be a witness. She also remembers HX38 Zaffer Mughal talking to her after she was arrested, but does not know whether this was enough to make him a witness. The cops who nicked her were not FIT, but they were acting upon the orders of FIT. However, at this stage, she does not know who they were.

She also does not understand what interfering means. When she questioned the custody sergeant about this, she was told she might find out their home addresses and go and slash their tyres. However, whilst this image induced some pleasant daydreaming, she also realised that such an action would cause more damage than the £1 she is currently accused of.

FIT Watch are having an effect. Get involved. Send any info you think we might be interested in to defycops@yahoo.co.uk or add to blog – www.fitwatch.blogspot.com


Reports of Bash the Rich etc. will follow later.