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Wednesday, 14 January 2009

We will not be pushed around - a Fitwatch response to criticism of militant protest

This post started as a response to a comment on this thread. Some of it may be stuff we have said in the past, and it is a personal response.

Firstly, let's get one thing straight. Forward Intelligence Cops are not bastions of law and order, trying to keep the peace in difficult circumstances. They are nasty, insidious, vicious and smug. I may be generalising, but I've met a lot of them over the years, and not one has failed to meet these criteria. I think they may even get training in the most patronising way to say a person's name. They are part of what Jacqui Smith described last year as “harassment style policing” - and this is an accurate picture of what they have been doing to activists for years.

However, whilst this is personal and nasty, it only happens to a handful of people. The bigger picture is even more concerning, especially their recent admissions of holding and building databases of people who attend protests, and their proactive targeting of journalists.

FIT are interested in everyone who attends a demonstration, regardless of whether they are wearing any face coverings. Footage we have from their cameras show equal amounts of attention being paid to people who are not wearing masks. A person should not end up on a database simply for attending a demonstration, and we must resist this.

Obviously, masks are extremely useful if you are planning to do anything illegal – even if they get you on camera, if you make no admissions, it is hard for them to prove identity. However, even if you don't plan to do anything, you never know, you may feel differently when you've just witnessed your friend being beaten with a big stick. I read the following about the Gaza demo on this cop's blog earlier - replace bottles etc., with batons, shields, etc., and I couldn't agree more.

“If someone is going to attack me or my colleagues then I'll fight back, no matter what side they are on. There is no difference between a bottle, scaffolding clip, battery or brick whether it's thrown by someone who is pro/anti anything, it still fucking hurts and still does damage to property and people".

This is a normal reaction. However, when it comes to protest, we are supposed to adopt some weird liberal pacifist bullshit that implies we are not allowed to defend ourselves because our attackers are wearing a uniform. This victim mentality ensures we will always be the abused .It's fine for a cop to say he'll fight for his colleagues on his blog, but I'm an extremist for advocating the same on this blog.

The same copper bleats about how the liberal press have distorted the facts – how the demonstrators started the confrontation, and the police were forced to react. I wasn't at the demonstration so I can't comment, but if previous demonstrations were anything to go on, then it would have been a, quite rightly, confrontational crowd.

However, there are other not so obvious elements to starting confrontation. One of the main reasons for confrontation is space. At the embassy, the pens for protesters were very small for the numbers (this was certainly the case the week before, and would have been worse last week). Forcing a large number of angry people into a confined space is never a good idea, and it should come as no surprise when those imprisoned break down the barriers and throw them back at their captors.

Protest is very tightly controlled in this country. You can protest, but only if you do what your told. If you don't believe me, try leafleting outside your local fur shop, and see what happens. Cops have forgotten the limits of their powers and “don't care about the law” as dear Bob Churchman put it last week. However, this is not always obvious to people who only see or attend major demonstrations. It is the people who attend the small demos who are photographed and harassed, assaulted and arrested, often for doing nothing more than handing out a few leaflets.

Policing of protest has changed in the last ten years. Ten years ago, it was very clear which protests were likely to lead to arrest. Now, it is much harder, and the most innocuous protest can be met with heavy handed policing and a trip to the cells. In fact, ask around, and it's not just protest. The majority of people who have dealings with the police have found them disagreeable in some way, even if it's been reporting crime.

However, this strategy is backfiring, and people are starting to get angry. Crowds are beginning to reclaim space and set the agenda for protests. Events such as the Smash Edo and Bush demos have started to show we will no longer tolerate oppressive policing, and the militancy at the Palestinian demonstrations has taken this further. Dissent needs an element of danger before it is threatening enough to change anything, After never ending years of shuffling around Whitehall and not changing anything, people are beginning to fight back.

Will this militancy change anything? Obviously, it didn't force Israel out of Gaza. I'm not naive enough to believe there is anything we can do on street level in London which can do this. However, as a message of opposition and solidarity it was powerful – far more powerful than any of the protests against the Iraq war. If people had rioted after every Iraq demo, it is likely Blair would not have backed the war.

It is very easy to see violence at protests as perpetrated by “known troublemakers”, the “violent minority” or “rent-a-mob”. However this is a patronising oversimplification and is a very convenient way of dismissing caring, passionate people, especially as notoriously these people do not have a voice for fear of repercussions.

Political policing in this country is forcing people into militancy. Large protests have been ignored and smaller protests have been persecuted. Fitwatch is a small but important part of this resistance. It is part of the same response, the same refusal to be constantly pushed around.

2009 could be an interesting year...


Munchy said...

I completely agree. Our other greatest tool is educating people on their rights regarding stop searches etc, because I saw so many people giving over personal info that they did not have to give over last Saturday. I mean, knowing the law didn't help me when I got searched under sec. 60 after getting out of the pen (they waited til I was away from the crowd, in a side street surrounded by cops before the search, so there was no point resisting) but there were people who were giving the cops their names when they really didn't have to.

Metcountymounty said...

interesting post. If I could clarify one thing though, at the march there were in excess of 100,000 (irrespective of the official figures of 20,000 which I don't believe for one second) there were NO pens at the march on the 10th.

They had planned on the entire road being taken up by people (which of course it was) and had planned on allowing the entire march to be able to leave the street back in the direction of the parks. Double barriers were placed along the road to keep the pavements clear so that the shops could still be open, so police and LAS medics had a clear area to evac people, so Police could get to areas quickly and finally to prevent a building line to building line crush through body weight of people.

When the head of the march got to the front gate of the embassy it stopped so people could demonstrate with 100,000 behind them, they were asked to carry on moving to clear the street and allow the whole march through but refused and as such everyone more than 50 meters away from the embassy gates was unable to get anywhere near it. Those behind IMMEDIATELY blamed the police for stopping them but the entire street was open and had the whole march carried on so all 100,000 people had to opportunity to walk past the gates to give their own contribution there would have been no block of the rest of the march. It may have been naive to hope that everyone would walk on by and give everyone else in the march their own fair share and opportunity to demonstrate but short of levelling all the surrounding buildings and creating an enourmous carpark overnight, what else could have been done?

I can't emphasise enough that WE DID NOT BLOCK THE ROAD FROM THE START.

Protestors tried to get through the gates at the north side of Kensington Gardens and officers were attacked as they tried to stop them and received injuries, they had to request urgent support to stop people getting through the gates. As soon as the shops were smashed in at the south entrance a Police cordon was put in which effectively closed the road at the park end, we then put a filter cordon in at the other end to help disperse people when the official protest ended at half 4, the best part of 10k people passed out through the filter cordon and left.

When petrol and barriers were thrown at the shops and at Police lines we closed the cordons down. There were then less than 1500 people contained (as every single one was eventually documented and searched for weapons/evidence/items from the shops that were ransacked) that was when some demonstrators ripped apart the barrier and moved it across the road to stop police arrest serials from targeting specific suspects, hence then it was locked down completely and people were funnelled out individually.

We were deliberately NOT in full public order gear from the start(normal beat duty helmets as plenty of photos on indymedia show) as they hoped no violence would happen and we only got kitted up AFTER officers were attacked.

Desert Island Discs said...

That's as maybe, MCM. However, the creation of a blockage outside the emabssy gates was eminently foreseeable. Following on from this, a crush building up with people unable to see or hear what was causing the delay was equally predictable. From my own observations, there was no attempt made by either police or stewards to prevent people becoming caught up in the crush: on the contrary, the stewards encouraged people to move forwards into it. The decision to send in a serial or two of TSG to divide the crowd and pen in the group outside the embassy - for no reason apparent to the people in the demonstration - was thus likely to exacerbate the situation. When added to events earlier in the day, when I'm told the police charged a number of protestors who were sitting down, it was hardly a course of action to calm the situation down.

Sending in arrest squads to capture people in the crowd in my view escalated the situation further. By not communicating with the crowd not penned in at any point on the evening it is hard to see how the police hoped people would get the message. Further, the abusive language used by TSG officers in the course of the evening (I was told to 'fuck off' for no apparent reason) did not appear calculated to lower tensions.

My view of the policing of the day was that it was ill-thought out if the aim was to have the event pass off peacefully: but well considered if the objective was running battles. Although you say you were not in full riot gear from the off, that's ignoring the *fact* that the vast majority of the police were plainly wearing coveralls under their hi-vis jackets. I think it says in 'Shooting in the Dark' that this is one way riot-equipped police can be deployed without arousing hackles; however, the trick's been tried so often since that book was published that it's wearing a little thin.

Though the double barriers of which you speak may not have been intended to act as a pen, it's my view that they very definitely did so act. More, it's my contention that this was not accidental, that the conditions which led to much of the 'disorder' were so obvious after more than a week of protests that not to have thought about it borders on the criminal; surely not everyone's forgotten the police role in crushes such as Hillsborough.

FIT Watch said...

Dear Metcountymounty,
Thank you for your comments. It makes a pleasant change to have an intelligent comment from a cop to respond to, and it is interesting to have your perspective.

Firstly, in regards to the pens. There were no pens on the march on 10th, but there were at the Embassy afterwards. The penned area was over half the road on the side furthest away from the Embassy. This area was densely packed, and it was extremely difficult to walk from one end of the demonstration to the other. Eventually, these pens were pulled apart, thrown back at the police, and the entire road was taken by protesters.

As stated in my post, I wasn't there on the day, and I can't comment other than to say your version of events sounds entirely plausible. You knew it was likely to kick off, we knew it was likely to kick off, and if I were in your position, I'd be really pissed off at having senior officers play politics over the safety of myself and my friends. The fact that you weren't kitted up from the start adds credibility to your post, and I have long been pissed off with cries of “police brutality” when there isn't any. The police can be, and often are, brutal. I have experienced and witnessed police brutality on many occasions – it is one of the reasons I'm involved with Fitwatch – but not on every occasion.

However, the reality is what many people experienced is being crushed against barriers by baton wielding cops. For some of these people this would have been the first time in their lives they would have experienced this level of violence from anyone – and I don't doubt for one second that there were individual officers who acted with excessive force and brutality. But I can accept it wasn't necessarily “police brutality” which started the situation.

Having said this, there are two separate issues – why people behind those at the front immediately blamed the police for penning them in, and was the response from the police after they kitted up, proportionate, legal and/or appropriate.

People presumed the cops had penned them in because this is what they normally do. We have been pushed around on so many demonstrations, it is what we have come to expect. Furthermore, there was a large Muslim contingent in the crowd, and without too much generalisation, it'd be pretty fair to say the majority of them would not have had good previous experiences with the police.

However, the most glaring admission in your post, and the point that most illustrates the constabulary's attitude to protesters, is that you think it is acceptable to hold, process, and criminalise 1500 people, the majority of whom would have committed no crime other than having made a decision to attend a demonstration.

The property damage and looting were relatively minor. The shops are very small along that road, and it wouldn't have taken many people to damage them. Yes, there were also people in the crowd who had been involved in the disorder, but not many, probably not even as many as 100. This was a massive data collection exercise, entailing many innocent people being technically imprisoned, marched away by riot police, searched, having their details taken on threat of arrest, and having their photographs taken for the files. We know the police are maintaining a database on people who attend protests – all this information will go on this database regardless of whether the individuals involved are suspected of any offences.

This is a prime example of the sort of policing we have experienced, and the sort of policing we should be resisting. The police could have allowed the situation to deflate by itself, but instead chose to trample over the civil liberties of over one thousand people. Other countries tend to disperse protesters, but the UK always wants to corral and control, collect as much data as possible.

Being individually processed by riot police can be a very scary and intimidating procedure. It's easy to forget how frightening this can be, but I can remember being terrified the first time I had personal dealings with a cop in full gear.

Whilst on the one hand this treatment can scare people away, it can also make people angry. Innocent people do not like being treated like criminals. They do not like being penned and herded around, and they realise they want to have a voice and be on the streets. They realise to do this, we have to fight back, otherwise we will always be beaten and pushed around.

Fitwatchers have been accused elsewhere of being “rent a mob” and “just looking for trouble”. On other forums we've been accused of not caring about Gaza, because we're only discussing the police. Of course we're discussing the police. We're running a blog about the police, it would be a bit strange if we started reporting events in Gaza.

It's like you say. You don't care if someone is pro or anti something if they are lobbing missiles at you. Similarly, I don't care who started the confrontation. I do care about watching unarmed protester being attacked by batons. I'd do the same if I saw the same thing happening in the street. I'd do everything I could to stop the person being beaten up, and ask questions later, as I suspect, would you.

I hate violence. It sickens me, and it is certainly not something to be glorified. I get pissed off as being (or of Fitwatch being) described as (and I'm paraphrasing) violent thugs who don't care about the issues we go to protest about. I get pissed off with people who are accused of violence at protests being labelled as “violent troublemakers”. We don't do these things for fun, because, trust me, it isn't fun. We do these things because we care passionately about the world we live in; we care about injustice and inequality, and we're prepared to do something about it.

I also wish I wasn't spending so much of my campaigning time concentrating on cops. However, the effects of FIT and public order policing has been so damaging that we need a strong response and a strong resistance to political policing. It is the only hope we have of being successful with any of our campaigns.

Observer said...

The courts have repeatedly ruled that penning is perfectly legal just as they have recently ruled that fitwatch tactics are not.

It seem that what you really don’t like is effective policing preventing you imposing a minority view by force.

Anonymous said...


I would be grateful if you could let me know the High Court case which has ruled Fitwatch tactics illegal or unlawful. I don't believe there is one.

Metcountymounty said...

desert island discs - yes the fence line did ultimately act as pen, the other option though of having no barriers would have meant a building line to building line crush with no redundancy and zero avenue for escape short of smashing in shop fronts and finding alternate exits. It was a safety feature (although clearly controversial) that without being in place would have lead to significantly more injuries as people realised they had absolutely no escape, at least people could, and many did, climb over the barriers to leave the area. With regard to our kit, yes everyone was in coveralls but we didn't have full protection underneath and didn't have helmets. Again they hoped it wouldn't kick off but in the almost inevitable event that it did it would mean we wouldn't have to take very long to get fully kitted up.

Fitwatch - as soon as the shops were smashed in and ransacked it became a crime investigation, there is plenty of precedent for holding large groups to investigate and collate details for a small number of people suspected in committing offences, after the last protesters left the cordons the whole place was sealed as a crime scene and forensicated. I've been to jobs where we have closed down and sealed off clubs with over 2k people and processed every single one of them for drug dealing/assaults etc. After the shops were attacked lots of items were seen to be distributed through the crowd from clothing and accessories from the high end shops, to knives and bottles from starbucks. As a result of the searches a couple of people were arrested, the rest were for actions seen by the EG teams.

With regard to the work of FIT teams, are you familiar with FIO's? the Football Intelligence Officers do exactly the same job really, working at football matches and gathering intelligence on fans to establish a known database of hardcores who have been involved in violence. Using this intel we categorise fixtures to give an anticipated level of violence which allows a reasonable justification for levels of force. It would not be unreasonable or unexpected to see fully kitted up level 2 and TSG officers at a chelsea v Millwall (category C+) match from the start but the same response at a category A match between non league teams would be completely disproportionate unless violence occurred. It isn't unreasonable to expect a game attendance of 60k people to have less than 500 who will fight and cause problems and but we can legally use previous history to categorise the fixtures and plan our response.

We can't use the category system at demonstrations to plan a response because unlike football matches there isn't going to be a predictable group (for the most part) who would attend even though the numbers of people attending versus the numbers who will become violent are very similar. The only system of intelligence we can use is the actual people attending the demo on the day, this is where the FIT officers come in by being able to recognise specific people to allow the incident commanders to make a justifiable decision of tactics based on live intel and events instead of previous history by demonstrators from the same supporting groups.

I've been reading through a lot of your back posts, it's quite helpful to see the view from the other side.

Observer said...

“I would be grateful if you could let me know the High Court case which has ruled Fitwatch tactics illegal or unlawful. I don't believe there is one.”

OK - Impeccably sourced – from this very blog!

“The three people on trial for obstructing a police cameraman were found guilty. Two were given conditional discharges and a third was fined. All three have been ordered to pay costs of £150. They are considering their appeal.”

Anonymous said...


that's from a magistrates court. magistrates do not make precedent in their rulings. judges do - and not the district judges (formerly stipendiary magistrates) who sit in magistrates courts. in that particular instance, which is being appealed, the defendants were convicted. as it's a magistrates court decision, it has no bearing on other cases of fitwatch activity, which will be (one hopes) judged on their own merits.

Observer said...

Thank you – I am aware of the different courts in the UK but it was you that introduced the High court – I merely said courts – if you insist on listing Fitwatch defeats in the High Court then I will refer you to Woods

“[Woods] was photographed in a public street, in circumstances in which police presence could not have been unexpected by [Wood] or by anyone else," he ruled. "The images were to be retained, without general disclosure, for very limited purposes. The retention of the images was not part of the compilation of a general dossier of information concerning [Wood] of the type that has been held in the past to constitute an interference with Article 8 rights.”

Which established the legal basis for FIT activity – thanks again.

FIT Watch said...

Observer - you weren't acting like you knew the difference between courts. Besides the privacy issues in Wood have been superceeded by the recent DNA rulings. Furthermore, apart from Liberty chosing the worst possible case for taking the high court, the police denied keeping a database on protesters. This has since been admitted by a long serving forward intelligence officer in court.
Even if this was not the case,the Wood case did not rule fitwatch tactics illegal. It ruled the FIT were justified in taking one photograph of Wood. It didn't rule we were wrong in our tactics opposing them.

Metcountymounty - I'm obviously aware of FIT at football - it was where the tactics come from. However, there are two points arising from this. Firstly, if the police don't know which groups are attending demos, then police intelligence is even more of an oxymoron than I imagined. CO11 spend a lot of time monitoring sites, they have a good idea what buzz is around over which demos. They may not be communicating this to cops on the ground, but to say decisions are made only on who attends on the day is bullshit.

Secondly, whilst FIT do communicate who is on the ground at a demo, they do a hell of a lot more. Their job is to harass people, as has now been publically admitted by Jacqui Smith. They aim to deter people from attending protests and meetings, deter them from having a voice. They must, will, and are being resisted.

Regarding the point about nightclubs - whilst I wouldn't support this policing in those situations either, it is very different to being on a political demonstration. It is very different when any details you give will be entered on a database of known protesters.

Metcountymounty said...

Fitwatch - of course CO11 gather intel on who is going to attend, the difference between football categories and demos is an established legal basis to use previous history for that specific event as justification for an escalated level of force from the outset, and at present we can't legally judge a demo based on who is likely to turn up (with the exceptions G8 and mayday) only on who actually does turn up.

A political demo is one thing, but when you have offences like off weaps, crim damage, violent disorder, gbh, abh, threats to kill, theft, burglary, arson with intent to endanger life etc (all of which happened on the 10th) then the Police are required by law to investigate it, no matter what was happening to start with.

In some cases that will include a mass detention and search, in others it will mean an arrest team going in to get a specific target, in others it will mean visually documenting everyone in a given area to check against cctv footage and establish a suspect identity where they can be tracked down later.

Do you really think that a political demo should give a very small minority carte blanche to do whatever they want by stopping all police action, no matter who gets hurt or loses out? just look at how out of hand and destructive mayday became until the police completely locked down the protest in 01 where a minority saw it as their 'duty' and 'right' to smash the place up. Since that there has not been a violent protest like it in london but thousands of demonstrations have been held since.

Observer said...

That's correct - and that's the bit they don't like. The MET is very effective in containing violent protest and where it does occur the FIT tactic of recording all present ensures that those who commit criminal acts are prosecuted subsequently. That is never going to be popular with those who seek change by violence.

Anonymous said...


what utter bollocks.

you assume that the police photograph and are able to identify everyone doing something they don't like. as dci mick neville pointed out last year, very little cctv footage has any evidential value. how much video footage taken on the fit's aging machines of people in uncertain light would aid the fit bring these people to trial is certainly open to debate. specially since the fit ran away from what happened down the road from the embassy.

Anonymous said...

"in others it will mean visually documenting everyone in a given area to check against cctv footage and establish a suspect identity where they can be tracked down later."

I would like to point out that unless a section 60 order is in place before the demo, then people can refuse to be photographed, video'd or have to give the name and address, that's what p*****s me off the police make the law up on the spot, yo either are custodians of the law or not, in this situation you often get threatened with arrest if you do not comply, which is in theory meaningless in law, so if coppers want respect they have to play by the rules, myself I refuse, unless the paperwork for section 60 can be produced on the spot. section 44 does not wash on this one either.

thanks anon

scrivener said...

the section 44 standard operating procedure's up on the met website:

annoyed scrivener said...

[link continued] earch_s44_tact_2000_sop.pdf

Metcountymounty said...

section 60 was in place before the demo started, we told that at the morning briefing around 0900, the demo didn't step off Hype Park corner until considerably later than that, it applied specifically to the route of the demo and outside the embassy on Kensington Gardens.

Metcountymounty said...

also, legally, we don't have to provide you with the proof that section 60 has been authorised in order to exercise the authorities of search or video documentation, as long as it has been authorised at the right levels and that is documented and recorded properly to be produced later.

Anonymous said...

interesting today to see the met lose a couple of hundred protestors in the west end...

Observer said...

And..yet again for the hard of learning - It doesn't matter whether you agree to be photographed or not in a public place - and if you obstruct police who are doing so you get convicted.

Why is this so hard to grasp?

Anonymous said...

because it's not true?

Rupert Street said...


You like to think you know what you're talking about, but with every post you reveal your ignorance. Far from being an offence to prevent the police taking your picture, Form 5454 - which the police are supposed to hand out on request when conducting overt filming - points out that you are under no obligation to cooperate. This means that the police are expecting a level of non-cooperation, or obstruction.

You've already shown how little you know about courts. Before you post again, reflect: it is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than open it and prove you are.

Ben said...


They think they can take the law into their own hands.

Lock them up. I have absolutely no sympathy for those involved in this action and I hope it was none of you lot.

Ben again said...

P.S. If you think you can do a better job than the police why not join them and start making a difference- that's if you don't have a criminal record already.

Let the backlash begin...!

Anonymous said...

Just a quick point of clarification. Last time I looked section 60 orders provide the police the power to detain an individual in order to conduct a search for weapons. Unlike ordinary PACE searches it doesnt require 'suspicion' of that individual, so can be used on large groups.

It DOESNT give the police power to request name and address. Yet they frequently claim that it does.

Neither does it provide the power to kettle people in for ages. They rely on old common law powers to 'prevent breach of the peace' for that.

Anonymous said...

"It DOESNT give the police power to request name and address. Yet they frequently claim that it does. "

I was going to reply to that point, with much the same reply, its when the police make it up, gets my goat, simple don't, I am not anti police, I'm anti aggressive fit and databasing and anti police making it up, cause they think they can.

bear in mind that if a section 60 is used and then details are asked for and refused and arrest is threatened, and force is then made or spurious is arrest is made then that police officer is making a criminal assault and as such, then should be arrested as such under a citizens arrest.

I have yet to see that happen but the time will come when very well informed individuals will start arresting officers for unlawful use of such powers. So my answer is stop now and respect will go both ways.

bentham said...


"There were NO pens at the march on the 10th. They had planned on the entire road being taken up by people (which of course it was) and had planned on allowing the entire march to be able to leave the street back in the direction of the parks."

There was a lorry parked across Kensington Road, near Princes' Gate, with a stage and bigscreen on the back, which formed an effective end to the loose pen leading from the embassy, especially given the repellent dullness of some speakers. The space left between the embassy, truck and barriers was ~4500 sq m, only adequate for at most 20,000 people tightly packed, and utterly impractical for a dispersal area.

Whoever was Gold for this demo has a lot more injuries to both sides to answer for as a result.

Also, in your blog post you say:
"One officer was knocked unconscious by a scaffolding pole, two received really bad facial injuries and the other officers (male and female) were kicked and punched repeatedly until a couple of PSU's managed to get to them."

while apparently talking about the North Gate, but this doesn't tally with the Met's PR about injuries (3 serious, 20 minor), and there's video footage (BBC?) of an unconscious officer being dragged away near the South Gate, but much later when full PPE was in use.

There appears to be no footage of scaffold poles or police casualties at the North Gate.

Are the Met's figures wrong, or were there two unconscious officers and four with facial injuries?

Anonymous said...

Why not put your efforts into working with the Police instead of trying to prevent them from doing their job? You may find them defensive at first but if you approach with the correct attitude and tone you clearly could be a great support. There is a lot of knowledge here - why not put it to good use?

Understand more about why they have to use the methods that they do and then challenge - having only recently started following this site i feel as if everyones opinions have stemed from a few that have had bad experiences and are holding a grudge.

resistance said...

anal "political" police choose to be an exercise in stupidity.

Torrington Starbucks said...

To last anonymous:

My first experience of the police on a demonstration was at the poll tax riot, when - as a Thames television documentary showed - the police sparked the violence by attacking a group of people sitting down outside Downing Street. The subsequent nineteen years have done nothing to make me reconsider the view of the police I formed that day; rather, they've reinforced it. The police who were charging down demonstrators that day include officers now in charge of boroughs (eg Merton), or working in Safer Neighbourhood Team officers, such as one in Lambeth, and unlikely to have changed their stripes. Perhaps you don't recall Chief Inspector (iirc) Richard Cullen, in charge of policing at the Criminal Justice Bill riot in 1994, who said he'd have liked to 'wade in' himself against the people defending themselves from police attack in Hyde Park, when the police sent in horses from the north end of Hyde Park to create a riot where there had previously been no violence.

The development of the Forward Intelligence Teams, ostensibly to 'create a rapport' with demonstrators, has had a chilling effect on people's right to demonstrate. The years before the birth of Fitwatch saw a large number of people simply intimidated off the streets. And these weren't hard core leftist street fighters, these were people quite happy to go on an a-b march - hardly arch subversives! Contrary to the image the police attempt to cultivate, of being happy to 'facilitate' lawful protest, the police from top to bottom have aimed at creating an environment in which any sort of protest, no matter how peaceful and lawful, has been treated as some sort of crime.

By consciously establishing a culture of intimidation and oppressive policing, where people are photographed even when they are not demonstrating, and photographed so often that the only possible purpose can be intimidation, one can, I believe, be excused for deciding to stand firm and say enough's enough. I recall some years ago being in Parliament Square with a couple of friends, standing near a FIT team, and having at least 30 pictures taken of me. The police already had so many pictures of me it was not necessary to photograph every inch of my body in close-up. If you can suggest another motive than initimidation, I'd be interested to hear it.

I agree that the police are 'just doing their job'; but that begs the question of whether their job's worth doing. And if that job entails surveillance on a scale previously unknown in Europe outside the old Stalinist dictatorships, then I don't think it is.

Observer said...


If it isn't an offence to obstruct a police photographer how is it you have been convicted of such?

BTW are you STILL considering your appeals?

Rupert Street said...


i have never been charged with any offence, much less convicted! you didn't pay any attention to my injunction to reflect before posting to avoid making an arse of yourself, and now you look a bit of a pillock from where i'm sat.

if i was feeling unkind i'd say you must be an inspector or above.

Observer said...

Oh Rupert I suspect that you are being deliberately obtuse! – when I say ‘you’ I mean FITWATCH so when I ask if ‘you’ are still considering ‘your’ appeals I mean are the 3 FITWATCHERS recently convicted of obstructing a police photographer STILL considering their appeals.
This isn’t really that complex Rupert – is it perhaps that you don’t want to understand the question? The other question – just in case you had forgotten, was – If as you assert it isn’t a crime to obstruct a police photographer why did the court convict them?

really fit said...


To answer your substantive question, the three people convicted of obstructing police cameramen are in the process of appealing that conviction. This takes time.

The reason the three were convicted is that this all relates to an unsettled area of law. Exactly what rights do the police have to take someone's photograph without their consent when they have done nothing wrong? Can they use force to do this? What rights do they have to put personal details on a database, when they have committed no offences? What rights does an individual have to protect their privacy and that of others against state intrusion? What level of power to systematically monitor individuals should the police have?

If the district judge had acquitted, the prosecution said they would appeal. If he convicted, as he did, the defence would appeal. Either way, it would have the same result. It will fall to a higher court to resolve the legal questions.

Does that answer your question?

Rupert Street said...


don't be such a bloody fool. what you meant was perfectly clear. to claim you meant the *plural* you when your question was obviously aimed at me only makes you look like private pike - you stupid boy.

Anonymous said...


"It doesn't matter whether you agree to be photographed or not in a public place - and if you obstruct police who are doing so you get convicted."

The many acquittals over the last two years clearly show that it is not so simple as you make out.

"If it isn't an offence to obstruct a police photographer how is it you have been convicted of such?"

Nobody has been. And all Fitwatch related convictions are being appealed.

Observer said...

Really Fit - thanks - you have answered my question - although your detailed and accurate answer makes some of the subsequent responses look very silly - good luck with the appeals!

Anonymous said...

@Observer: "your detailed and accurate answer makes some of the subsequent responses look very silly"

Only in your head. The fact remains that nobody has been convicted for the 'offence' of obstructing a police photographer, because there is no such offence. Do keep up.

Metcountymounty said...

Bentham - I wrote the post the next morning and gave you the information we were briefed about the night before. The truck was hired by the organisers and although blocking most of the road there was sufficient room on either side for people to leave and the road was not blocked by the Police at that point. When the crowd stopped it was of their own accord.

As for the update on injuries and what happened, at the North Gate one male pc was smacked around the head with a metal pole from a banner which dropped him and instigated the urgent assistance call. That was when the serial tried to stop people climbing over the gates and fence to the Russian Embassy to get through to Kensington Gardens, at least 3 other PC's were repeatedly kicked and punched including a female PC who was later pulled off duty because of concussion. In the photos of the north gate, they were the officers who had red paint thrown at them, all the other officers there were the relief serials sent in to help them out.

The PC reported as being knocked unconscious was a TSG officer who was severely injured after some cunt threw a brick sized metal bracket (that had been broken off of the barrier fencing) at his face from point blank range, it went through his visor and smashed his teeth and cheek, he was casevac'd whilst still unconscious. Another PC at the horse cordon end received a bottle to the face, also from point blank range which dropped him to the floor and caused cuts to his face, I think he is actually the one on the video being dragged off.

The latest update we've been given was 3 major injuries and around 25 minor injuries including concussion and severe bruising to male and female PC's. I know of at least another half dozen who had bruising from objects thrown at them on the cordon lines that weren't reported as injuries on duty

Lurch said...

it's refreshing to see that it's not cops having diarrhoea or sunburn or being stung by bees as happens all too often when police claim to be injured.