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Policewatch Films

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Bleating bobbies and the new crime of photography

After spending five days locked up (four of them in prison) for the heinous crime of taking a photograph of members of the West Yorkshire constabulary, I’m not much in the mood for the purile, senseless comments made on this blog by police officers.

“what? No new entries?”, bleats one of them, “no glorious victory at climate camp? Three words: ‘remanded in custody’”. Another is distinctly more threatening; “you got nicked and remanded to prevent you being a pain – this isn’t the first time it has happened and, for you, will not be the last.”

That the cops are using their (probably) work time to brag and gloat on this blog about getting two women remanded in custody is shocking, but revealing. I am quite sure that the police find Fitwatch tactics ‘a pain’, but that hardly justifies the harassment, intimidation and threats that we have had to put up with, not to mention the stress and uncertainty of being held on remand for a minor offence that we are not guilty of.

I was arrested at the main gate where I had been asked to take a picture of a police officer who was systematically stopping and searching all those attempting to leave the climate camp field. As I picked up my camera one of his colleagues stood in the way, blocking the shot ‘fitwatch’ style. Smiling at the irony of this, I took a step to one side and again raised my camera.

And that was that. Dragged away, thrown on the floor, searched, handcuffed, arrested, imprisoned. Most frustratingly I also missed the planned Fitwatch meeting at the climate camp and the chance to talk to others who are making use of the Fitwatch tactic.

Intimidating? Yes, of course it is. I’d be lying if I pretended otherwise, although I’m sure the admission will please the many cops that regularly read this site. But I do believe that the FIT tactic is now seriously under threat, and getting this surveillance harassment off our streets is starting to look like an achievable goal. For that I’m more than willing to spend a few days in HMP Bronzefield.


Anonymous said...

At least i can spell puerile.You are a sad individual who believes in nothing except some vague notion of protest for the sake of it. Your inability to see that it is your behaviour that led to your incarceration is as breathtaking as it is revealing.Being arrested brings you to notice makes you feel special. In every other respect you are ordinary and unimportant.

Anonymous said...

if you werent a copper, i could almost be moved to a state of pity for you.

heres to all the "ordinary and unimportant" people who actually take action to improve their lives for themselves and their comrades.

via an lar said...

to first anonymous:

you may be able to spell puerile, presumably because you are.

Anonymous said...

And there goes anonymous #1 showing that part of the police force hasn’t moved on from the days of Gene Hunt and have no interest in the idea that they might be public servants and bound by the law, rather than above it.

Pathetic. And making a bad name for the whole of the force.

Good on ya, “Really FIT”. Keep resisting. It’s gonna be hard work to roll back the fascist shit that Blair put through, but we’ll get there eventually.

Anonymous said...

...and how exactly are you improving your life or that of your "comrades" (oh dear!) broke the law...theres no good moaning at "the facist shit..". You are the one that made it personal. Dont be suprised if your words and actions are taken personally. And that realy is the last time i shall comment on your blog. Chin up, looking forward to you putting the professional into protesting some place soon.

via an lar said...

if the last anonymous is the same person as the first anonymous (and i suspect they are one and the same) they're not in a position to lecture people on spelling! at least i can spell 'really'!

and if that IS the last time you post here, last anonymous, all i can say is 'thank fuck for that'.

via an lar said...


and i can spell 'fascist', which is more than spelling bee last anonymous can.

FIT Watch said...

Well done, anonymous, of course it's personal, but we didn't make it personal. You made it personal years ago. We just decided it was time to fight back and you don't like it. You don't like the fact we're having an effect, and that you can no longer act with impunity.

I don't doubt it was my "behaviour" that led to my being locked up. However, my "behaviour" has been to challenge an area of public order policing, not any criminal act - hence why you have not been able to secure any convictions against fitwatchers.

We are "ordinary and unimportant" people acting according to our beliefs. Trust me, if I didn't really believe in what I was doing, I wouldn't be putting myself through all this shit. However, it is ordinary and unimportant people who can make a difference in the world, and thank you, this is one of the messages we've been constantly trying to get across. Anyone can do what we're doing, and that's great - that's even more of a threat, isn't it?

As to this "vague notion of protest". I think you'll find the concept of protest is not a vague one, but one which people have lived and died for. Do you not think we should have the right to protest? Do you think every protest movement should be repressed by violent thugs who don't care whether a law is broken before they lock people up?

I have come out of prison stronger, and more focussed. Yes, it was a shock to be remanded for obstruction. Yes, of course it makes me feel vulnerable and scared. However it doesn't change anything, other than making me more determined to fight for, and with, ordinary and unimportant people everywhere.

Anonymous said...

PC Comment here.

I have been away for a few days....what did I miss??

I propose a spelling bee to put an end to all this sniping!

What boozer shall we all meet up in for a friendly pint?

Lunarsight said...

We actually had a similar incident happen in Worcester MA years ago. A cop had left a prostitute handcuffed to a signpost in the freezing cold while he went inside to attend to some business.

A reporter from the local paper wandered by and photographed it. The officer tried to confiscate the camera, which made things even worse - sure enough, the photo ended up on the front page of the paper the next day.

(For the record - the top anon is a spineless wuss, in my humble opinion. I find people are more likely to post obnoxious comments when you don't know who they are.)

Anonymous said...

To the top anonymous -

It's absolutely sickening to me that someone that is tasked with upholding the law, protecting citizens, and generally promoting justice is so blatantly cowardly. When we get right down to it, this harassment isn't about protecting ANYONE - it's about fostering an 'us versus them' attitude towards everyday citizens, about asserting one's authority on those whom are banking your payroll.

I feel absolutely no sympathy for those who hide behind some laughable sense of rules when what they are doing is simply morally corrupt and inexcusable. I hope that jobs are lost and punishments are severe for this gross lack of simple humanity.

Lynn S said...

FIT WATCH you are all awesome and clearly having an impact. Methinks it will not be long before FIT go crying off to parliament to demand protection from the "nasty" activists. Just like the playground bully they can't stand it when their intended victims stand up to them. Love and much respect Lynn S

GH 64 35 75 C said...

to top anonymous, it is the ordinary and unimportant people who are the mass of this country which the forward intelligence team fears most, who they were established to combat and deter from effective protest.

John Gussel said...

I am a police officer in a fairly large city in the United States of America. I wish I could say that people being held for such "crimes" as legal photography are uncommon, but unfortunately they are not.

I applaud you for your efforts to "watch the watchers" you, and all those like you, have my deepest sympathies for what you suffer. Keep up your fight, as it is truly the "good fight," but just remember to not be a jerk in doing so as this will do more harm to your movement than good.

There are police in the world who are grateful that people like you exist, and continue to film them! Not all police are power-hungry and abusive! Some truly wish to make their cities and counties and states and nations safer places to live!

Good luck to you and your kin in your future endeavors!

(And, I would like to mention as an aside, this comment is made on my day off -- no tax-payers' money has been wasted in making it. Additionally, I am changing my first name and leaving out the city I work for both to prevent this comment from appearing to endorse this comment, and perhaps more importantly, to protect myself.)

Anonymous said...

To all the British policemen watching: laws and applications of laws can change. I trust you all managed to get to your station's archery butts last Sunday for the two hours' longbow practice?

Britons have come from a position of serfdom under feudal overlords, through legally-enforced wage slavery (you once faced prosecution for skipping work, factory masters could ban watches so that they could run their clocks slow), to our current levels of freedom, all hard-won. Back in the 19th century, the Combination Act forbade any gathering of more than six people without permission from a magistrate, but...

I seem to have lost my audience, as they've all been overcome with joy, and are now scrambling for tissues. Oh, well they wouldn't want to hear the next part anyway.

There has never been a law against annoying a police officer, but it remains the most common reason for arrest. (Hence all the black people passing through their hands in the 70s:- policeman sees black person -> policeman gets annoyed at sight of black person -> policeman finds reason to arrest black person.)

So now all the police are back with us, a question. If you saw a known drugs kingpin take a snap of something police-related, would you do something about it? Bearing in mind that he will not be at all intimidated by your uniform, that he and his mates could do a real number on you, that his expensive lawyer will be there at the station with him, that his policy is always to sue for wrongful arrest, that CID might want a word about the op that won't be happening because you stuck your oar in... would not be the case with Joe Law-Abiding Citizen.

Sheep are easy to herd. Foxes less so. So I suppose (as the law stands) you're allowed to gripe on forums like this when the work gets hard.

Christopher said...

This blog, and its comments (and commenters) make for very compelling - and thought-provoking - reading. To the FIT Watchers, from a regular joe public (who has considered joining the Police Force himself more than once): don't ever underestimate the importance of what you're doing - and keep on doing it.

unfit said...

It seems the bobbies have been bleating to The Register. From No snapping: Photographers get collars felt:

In talking to El Reg about the law on photography, several Police Forces made the fair comment that there were individuals who had learnt how to use cameras at demonstrations as a means to wind individual officers up.

The Register goes on to say that "perhaps this should be punished appropriately when it happens", but thankfully lots comments on the article take a more sensible view, and castigate the Register for adopting the cops' position on this.

fotdmike said...

In talking to El Reg about the law on photography, several Police Forces made the fair comment that there were individuals who had learnt how to use cameras at demonstrations as a means to wind individual officers up.

Pity the cops didn't take a more balanced position and agree to clamp down on police photographers who've learned how to use cameras at demonstrations as a means to wind individual protesters up.

That's be too much to ask for though, wouldn't it.

Anonymous said...

keep up the good fight

Anonymous said...

[quote]At least i can spell puerile.You are a sad individual who believes in nothing except some vague notion of protest for the sake of it. Your inability to see that it is your behaviour that led to your incarceration is as breathtaking as it is revealing.Being arrested brings you to notice makes you feel special. In every other respect you are ordinary and unimportant.

It is not your place to judge the effect of a person's actions like this. If she wants to go about photographing a FIT team, so long as she is respecting their rights, she can do that. It doesn't matter what she "achieves" - the fact is, she is at liberty to do so...

If the FIT find being photographed so distressing, then why are they employing the same tactics against lawful protesters?

More to the point, if they wet their pants at the presence of a camera pointed *at them*, are they really made out of the sort of stuff we expect to be filling a police uniform?