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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.

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