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Saturday, 31 May 2008

Fitwatch: It's Not Just About the Cameras

When people think about Fitwatch, there is an immediate focus on the cameras. This is not unsurprising. Fitwatch actions have generally been focused on either us taking pictures of them, or us physically getting in the way of their cameras.

However, it is important to remember it's not just about the cameras. I commented on an email group recently that I would not have got so involved in Fitwatch if it was just about the cops taking my photo. It's not nice, but it's something I can live with. This is not to denigrate anyone who feels upset or intimidated by having their photo taken - it can be a very frightening experience the first time it happens - but what myself and others have dealt with is far more serious.

Announcing she intended to extend FIT operations to problem estates, Jacqui Smith admitted she wanted targets "harried and harassed." And this is exactly what they are doing on demonstrations - they are trying to harass people enough they know longer attend.

This harassment takes many forms , but if you end up on one of their target lists or spotter cards it can be anything from repeatedly having your photograph taken (and anyone who talks to you having their photograph taken), being stopped and searched, derogatory comments, being followed, assaults, wrongful arrests, and false imprisonments.

There is no respect for family life, something I'm sure the residents of the Five Links estate in Essex are realising. Not only have I been followed home on numerous occasions, I have been followed whilst heavily pregnant, and with my child. I've been photographed breastfeeding. My child now distinguishes between "good" cops and "bad" cops - the "bad" cops being the ones who wear "blue and follow us". I've now reached the point where I won't take him to protests.

I was last convicted of an offence in 2002. Since then, I have been arrested twenty five times, the majority of these have been by, or due to, forward intelligence officers. I do not have a single conviction from any of these arrests.

The psychological damage of these tactics should not be under estimated. In 2002, I ended up in hospital after drinking too much, vomitting blood, and hallucinating cops in the place of paramedics. I still have regular nightmares about cops chasing me. I have to steel myself before going to demos because I know what the situation will be - I can't just go on a march - I know I will be photographed, followed and spoken to. I know the cops will end up outside whichever pub we decide to visit.

This has not just happened to me. It has happened to a number of my friends. And, it is one of the reasons I became involved in Fitwatch. It is the reason why I wanted to start fighting back.

In this article the police admit they do not want their photos taken because it "unnerves" them, and they fear "revenge attacks from civil liberties groups". Good. This is a huge victory for Fitwatch, and one we should celebrate.

Furthermore, this has given me an even larger personal victory. I no longer feel unnerved by them. The tables are turning, and we need to build on this initiative until we have driven FIT off our demos, and off our streets.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

NUJ Calls for FIT to Stop Harassing Journalists.

Jeremy Dear, the General Secretary of the NUJ has written to Jacqui Smith about the harassment journalists are receiving from the FIT. Here is the letter:

Dear Jacqui,


I am writing to highlight our growing concerns regarding routine police surveillance of journalists.


In particular we have serious concerns about the activities of the Metropolitan Police’s Forward Intelligence Team (FIT Team) in monitoring and recording the activities of bona fide journalists, especially photographers. A number of members have alleged that the police’s surveillance action amounts to virtual harassment and is a serious threat to their right to carry out their lawful employment.


As you will be aware the FIT team have a responsibility to provide intelligence to police units in respect of individuals who may be involved in public order issues. "Targets" whose likenesses are retained by the police are given four-figure Photographic Reference Numbers and held on a database.


Recently, the FIT team has started surveillance of Press-Card-carrying journalists who cover and report on protests of any kind. For example, at a recent lobby against the SOCPA restrictions on protests on 1 March - all members of the press present were catalogued by the FIT team.


Through Data Protection Act requests we have learned that details of bona fide journalists are held on this database with photographic reference numbers.


I have met with a number of those journalists, mainly photographers who have been the victims of this intimidatory policing. For instance, members of the FIT team who know individual journalists by name still follow them and film them all the time they are working. The journalists have provided their Press Cards to FIT team members, have asked why they are under surveillance and have reminded police officers of their lawful right to carry out their work. Despite this the surveillance continues.


Despite repeated requests there has been no legitimate reason given why police photographers should be photographically cataloguing journalists going about their lawful business.


I would welcome from you information in respect of the guidance given to the FIT team.


  • Are the FIT team issued with instructions to photograph and catalogue journalists? Can you provide guidelines issued to FIT Team members about their duties/role?

  • For what purpose is information gained by the FIT team held on journalists by the police?

  • Who has access to information being held on police databases about journalists?


The routine and deliberate targeting of photographers and other journalists by the Forward Intelligence Team undermines media freedom and can serve to intimidate photographers trying to carry out their lawful work. The rights of photographers to work free from threat, harassment and intimidation must be upheld.


I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and/or relevant officials to provide further evidence of this activity, including photographic evidence and to seek assurances that the government will do all it can to ensure professional journalists are able to carry out their lawful work.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Photos of FIT at City Hall, 2 May

Some familiar faces here, and one FIT photographer who I’ve not seen before, and seemed very camera shy. See Is this what a police state looks like?


Neil Williams, CW2073, and another Fit cop














Another FIT cop with Neil Williams.









Shy photographer and two FIT cops
















very camera shy photographer, as above, who kept covering his face with his cameras and a big light, and hiding behind cops.




















HT915(left) and HT207
















CW 2073 and Neil Williams













Two more Fit Cops. No numbers, I’m afraid.

Fitwatch at Carnival Against the Arms Trade

Carnival Against The Arms Trade

Fitwatch call


4th June, 12 Noon, The Level, Brighton

The Forward Intelligence Teams seem to really love anti arms trade campaigners. Having already made their presence felt through years of DSEi protests, they have also long been a fixture at EDO demos. More recently, they have been travelling further afield, and have been spotted at St Athans demos in Wales, and the Heckler and Koch protests in Nottingham.

There is obviously something dangerously subversive about anti arms trade activists – if you believe in the abolition of the arms trade, the police feel they need to profile and monitor your movements.

Well, no more. We will no longer tolerate this harassment and intimidation. We will fight back.

Fitwatch will be attending the Carnival Against the Arms Trade, and are inviting people to join us to kick these gatecrashers out of our party.

Eliminate EDO!

Destroy DSEi!

Smash St. Athans!

Harass and crush Heckler and Koch!

Fuck the FIT!

Fitwatch is a tactic to fight the FIT by all means necessary. Anyone can fitwatch, and it can be as confrontational or pacific as you want.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Fit at Heckler and Koch demo

Various FIT officers were spotted in Nottingham on 6th Mayat a demo against Heckler and Koch (see here for details), including our increasingly well-travelled friend, Ian Skivens (CO5494). What is it Ian? Is harassing people in London just not enough for you anymore?
Other officers spotted included a new one to Fitwatch - PC 4551, Paul Mather, from Staffordshire. Welcome to Fitwatch, Paul.

PC 4551 - Paul Mather

Paul and Ian. What a lovely couple...

Witness Appeal for Police March and City Hall Arrests

Did anyone witness the arrest of the Fitwatch arrests at the police march? Did you witness the arrests at City Hall on 2nd May? Do you have any footage?

If so, please contact defycops(at)yahoo.co.uk

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Is this what a police state looks like?

Excerpts from the New Statesman post:

"Protestors trickled in down the path from Tower Bridge, dispersing among the crowds of camera-toting tourists and their toddlers, high school volleyball teams on school trips, students and local workers. But what was planned as a protest against the elections and a blockade of the BNP became little more than a demonstration of power by the London Metropolitan Police and the now-notorious Forward Intelligence Team (FIT)...


"However, despite the thousands of leaflets printed advertising the action, and despite the months of planning, postering and stickering, barely one hundred protestors gathered at City Hall for the demonstration. Many stayed home, or at a distance, soured by the persistent police presence at such widely-advertised protests, and wary of further encounters with the FIT team...

"At least two hours before the scheduled 6pm protests, police officers had already established a concentrated perimeter around City Hall, stretching beyond the borders offered by the picturesque London and Tower Bridges. "Suspiciously dressed" passengers were systematically stopped and searched by officers on foot at Underground stops. By five o'clock the small brownfield off the south side of City Hall was filled by 24 police vans encircled by police cameras mounted on tripods and multi-story cranes...

"Police medics and hundreds of police officers swarmed around City Hall, patrolling the area in pairs, equipped with earpieces and accompanied by the FIT-team outfitted in blue vests. As demonstrators arrived in small groups, FIT-team officers slowed into motion, tailing individuals, photographing groups of would-be protestors, stopping and searching anyone wearing a black hooded sweatshirt."


Click here to read the full article