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Thursday, 29 January 2009

FIT teams shut down on Gaza demo

Forward Intelligence Teams on the Gaza march on Saturday faced their toughest opposition to date, as people from the march enthusiastically joined Fitwatch activists in blocking police cameras.

As the FIT tried to film the march, they were soon challenged by Fitwatch activists. As the marchers saw what was happening more and more of them came over to support, and before long two FIT coppers and their photographer ended up stranded helplessly on a wall, surrounded by a sea of placards all being held at camera height. They were completely unable to operate, and when they missed getting footage of a group of Asian lads they were after, the anger showed. When, at the head of the march, another FIT team were frustrated by Fitwatchers, the police lost patience. They stopped what had been a very quiet, orderly demo, brought in the TSG, and sent snatch squads in for known Fitwatch activists, sparking a whole load of fuss and even more arrests. See http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=TBn3H1_BcXM

Considering that we (along with lots of others) had utterly shut down their data gathering operation, it is no wonder that they were not too happy. I suspect what scared them most was the amount of people who readily joined in, and who made the action so effective. I have to admit, this is the first time I have seen two FIT camera teams completely shut down, and it shows what this tactic is really capable of doing. There has been an astounding culture shift against these bastards, and Saturdays events show that getting them off our streets is now a realistic prospect.

In the circumstances we should have expected a hard time, and we got it. Two of the more prominent Fitwatch bloggers were accused of 'instigating' Fitwatch, and encouraging others to 'harass' police officers, of being troublemakers who cared little about the causes we protested at, of protecting violent offenders and perverting the course of justice. We were charged with obstruct police and assault / s4 charges arising from our arrest, and were refused bail. We were held in a police cells from 5pm Saturday night until 8am Monday morning, when we were taken to court.

Everyone else arrested on Saturday was released, even those arrested for violent disorder. They kept West End Central custody unit open all weekend just for the two of us, at massive public expense, and with a great deal of aggression and hostility. One of us had her hand seriously injured as police and Serco guards repeatedly slammed it in the door of the prisoner van taking us to court.

CO11 detectives spent the whole of Monday with the prosecution, arguing fiercely in court for us to be remanded. It was touch and go, and we were lucky to have good barristers to fight our corner. Narrowly – very narrowly – we escaped being sent to Holloway, for the time being, at least.

It is a continuing conundrum in political activity – being effective at challenging the state inevitably brings repression. And further repression is something we now definitely expect.

But Fitwatch is a tactic that has been taken up by hundreds of people up and down the country. It was fantastic to see so many people prepared to block cameras on the Gaza march, fed up with the intrusion of the police into their privacy, and the harassment by FIT of anyone who dared to look militant, Muslim and young. Fitwatch is much bigger than the handful of people who run the blog. It has been taken up by people of varying political views, on diverse campaigns, and in all kinds of political action. It is an idea let loose, a genie that has been let out of the bottle, and there is no form of repression that can put it back again.

This article ends with a plea to everyone who has ever thought of actively engaging in Fitwatch tactics to put their thoughts into action. There is a very real opportunity over the months ahead to get the FIT off our demonstrations, away from our meetings and off our streets.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Help Defend the Militancy - Fitwatch call for Gaza demo

24th January, 2pm, BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London.

As the militancy on the UK streets increases, so will the police repression. We must help defend this current wave of resistance. Given Israel's alleged ceasefire, it is likely the protests will be smaller, but the anger will not, and should not, go away.

Whatever the size of the protest, there will be many FIT teams about. Block their shots from the beginning and prevent them collating any information or evidence. Say no to being entered into a database just for attending a protest.

This call from Fitwatch is issued in solidarity with the people who have been confronting the police at the Israeli Embassy, attacking Starbucks, and smashing the EDO weapons factory in Brighton.

These courageous acts have sent a clear message of solidarity to the people of Gaza - a message that people care more about the destruction than they do the personal consequences. They show people will not be constricted in their anger, and will cause damage to the companies who contribute to, and profit from, Israeli slaughter.

Resistance is once again alive and kicking in the UK. Join Fitwatch and help keep it this way.

A few Fitwatch tips for staying safe in public order situations

(this is by no means a comprehensive guide)

1.Mask up from the beginning of the demo.
2.Don't bring identification, diaries etc., to the protest.
3.If you are stopped and searched, you do not have to give any details. If you are not driving a vehicle, the only times the police have the power to arrest you for not giving details are under Section 50 of the Anti Social Behavior Act or if they want to summons you for an offence/issue a fixed penalty notice.
4.Consider buying a cheap pay-as-you-go phone for demos to prevent the cops seizing your phone and going through your contact lists, text messages etc.
5.Buddy up. Have one or two people who you know are watching your back.
6.Take water and high energy foods with you.
7.Remember there is no such thing as a friendly chat with a cop.
8.Watch police movements and formations. Look out for pens – and if you've done something, take the opportunity to leave while you still can.
9.Watch for FIT teams. If one arrives at a situation, block their shots and let people know.
10.After the event – dispose of any distinctive clothing, especially rucksacks and shoes. Depending on the severity of the situation, it may be advisable to get rid of all clothing, mobile phone etc. Do not keep any souvenirs. Even if the police break your door down, it is possible you will get off. You lose this possibility if you have a police shield on your wall.
11.If you are arrested make no comment other than to give your name and a verifiable address. If your solicitor tries to advise you otherwise, tell them you want them to instruct you to give a no comment interview.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

500 pigs, 20 horses, 16 dogs, 2 starbucks


Following Israel's announcement that they'd killed enough Palestinians to be going on with, London's lamest decided to celebrate the military success by going on a rampage through the West End, terrifying the decent people going about their normal business, with helmetted hordes and triplets of SWAT-style vans speeding in every direction chasing shadows and shebab.

Yesterday, there was a Palestine Solidarity rally in Trafalgar Square from 2pm, and an obvious possibility that people would afterwards return to the Israeli Green Zone in Kensington to demonstrate their opposition to Israel's humanitarian efforts, which this week included using white phosphorus shells for the strangely frowned upon purpose of burning down UNRWA food and medicine warehouses.

Clearly, such ill-tempered tetchyness from the demonstrators could not be facilitated.

The Met said an appropriate policing response had been prepared or as one BTP PSU Sergeant remarked "You can see why the Met would go a bit overboard after fucking up two weeks in a row."

What the Met spokesman meant was that any march from Trafalgar Square to the embassy had been banned, in accordance with the well-worn provisions of the Ways and Means Act 1414. The whole area around Trafalgar Square was swollen with van upon van (60+) of bored PSUs & TSG, dog handlers from three forces, horse lorries and of course, surveillance units in 4x4s. On Suffolk Street long and short shields hung in rows on railings, such was the eagerness to facilitate lawful protest.

By 4pm there were approx four to five thousand * people in the square, when the speeches drew to an end. As Tony Benn was being put back in his box, streaks of fluorescent yellow stained the surrounding streets, determined to prevent any serious disruption to the career of Bob Broadhurst.

A section of the crowd exited the square by the South West corner and headed for Pall Mall, where they found themselves confronted by a formidable number of cops who surrounded them in the now traditional fashion, doubtless "for their own safety".

But it seemed they had overcommitted as other sections of the crowd moved to block Charing Cross Road and Duncannon Street largely unhindered, then thought better of it and headed for Soho and Oxford Street (still aiming to reach the embassy) with police struggling to follow due to the traffic disruption they had themselves caused by blocking the Haymarket / Pall Mall junction.


One group of around 200 protesters jogged down Shaftesbury Avenue, pausing to smash the windows of a Starbucks by Wardour Street, and the windows of another Starbucks on Piccadilly before finally being cut off at Green Park, only metres from a third round of glass lattes.


Meanwhile at the embassy itself there was relative calm, with a shaky ceasefire mostly holding behind the sandbags, but despite this the police still felt the necessity to round everyone up and force them on to trains perhaps as collective punishment for overdoing the holocaust references.

This week, as Gaza clears its rubble and counts its dead, and the IDF decides how far to pull back, how much to loosen the noose, it's unlikely the rage will go away, next Saturday will probably be one to watch.

* The Met's official estimate was 3,500 - but we all know they're no better at counting crowds than Geoff Jackson is at counting his units.

P.S. The FIT keep coming out with comments to anarchos on these demos like "why would you care about Gaza", "it's not your lot involved, why are you here", which shows once again how utterly pisspoor their 'intelligence' is, in every sense. We're completely impartial, wherever there's a thug in uniform getting his kicks by giving out kicks, whether he's a jumped-up security guard or a tooled-up Zionist, that's our lot on the other end of it. Never forget, we do all of this because we give a fuck.

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...

Friday, 9 January 2009

FIT policing at the Gaza demo

The Gaza demonstration last Saturday (3rd Jan) was justifiably passionate, angry and determined, and there were many more there than the 12,000 that the police claimed.

FIT coppers looked edgy from the start, focussing special attention on anyone who looked young Muslim and militant. But with such huge numbers of people, many wearing Arab scarves around their faces, it could hardly have been an easy day out for the FIT photographers.

Public order cops were aggressive from the start too. The one pictured above posed delightfully for a shot, and even introduced himself - CO 5484 Churchman from CO11 (his friends call him Bob). But then he appeared to have a sudden change of heart. Aggressively he grabbed hold of my camera phone and tried to pull it out of my hands. ‘You are going to delete that’ he shouted in my face. ‘You can’t photograph us’. After a brief stand-off in which I refused to let go of my camera, he gave up and turned his attention to bullying someone else.

He and his CO11 colleagues were clearly in a similar frame of mind when they tried to block in the march to the Israeli embassy at Hyde Park Corner underpass. Eyewitness accounts have emerged that police baton charged protesters on a march that had been, until then, entirely peaceful.

It seemed inevitable that there would be confrontation outside the Israeli Embassy, and so there was. Edgy and wound-up TSG sought to protect a small bit of Israel in London, while the Israeli military was pounding Gaza with rockets and artillery. The tightly penned in crowd eventually broke throught the crowd control barrier, with bits of it being returned to the police much faster than they may have wanted. FIT evidence gatherers found a roof balcony from which to film and photograph unhindered the angry crowd below, and powerful police and helicopter floodlights lit up the scene. Yet most of the more militant protaganists had covered their faces well with scarves, and had done so from early in the demo. I suspect that all in all, the FIT did not have such a good day.

eyewitness accounts from last Saturday's protest


Not my account, but one I came across on indymedia portraying the FIT team as being cool, calm, collected and in control. No, not really. The picture was entitled, 'FIT run for their cowardly lives'.

"I was surprised and like everyone, greatly cheered by the tannoy announcement urging everyone to march onto the Israeli embassy after the speeches. I'd love to know if the police were actually expecting this announcement or not as this is where they seemed underprepared for the numbers of protesters on the streets. Thousands of mostly Muslim youth were at this time trying to run fast along Pall Mall and only a few dozen cops were ahead and desperately trying to form a line across the street to slow and hold them up. A few of the youth just weren't prepared to tolerate this and started lobbing traffic cones and placards at the flimsy line and the cops really started losing it at this stage by lashing out and snatch arresting people. A wonderfully cheering sight was to see all the FIT team looking really scared and running totally paniced away from the crowd!"
Original at:
http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/01/417165.html

Monday, 5 January 2009

Gaza march - Hyde Park Underpass

This is a short vid from Saturday. One of the cops needing to get a grip is the ubiquitous Wesley Pritchard (MD862), it's around 1 minute in:
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=A1qft9BUbNI
Shocking lack of respect for our hero police, I'm sure you'll agree.