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Monday, 30 March 2009

Rogues' Gallery

Pictures from Saturday's march.

Using the little grey cell: FH433
That's handy: SX426
Lawn and order: KD54 and KD111
I've a hunch: U5606 and U2105
The future's bright: MD862 Wesley Pritchard (minus neck brace)
It's good to talk: CO5073
CO5479
Who's that man? RY240, RY124
YE11 and YE88
Follow follow: KD54 and KD111 take a stroll in the Ministry of Defence gardens
Keep 'em peeled: KD54
CW2339, CW3182
HT19, HT915
EK127, Alan Palfrey
Furtive: KD54. Note Stephen Discombe - CO2558 - lurking in background
D39
A rare picture of CO5466, 'Laughing boy', with inspector and CO5029 Graham Wettone
D39, BS420
Chris Mattock, FH433, ZD57 Glenn Williams
RY240, RY124, BS420, D39
CW3055, HT88, and, all the way from Essex, please welcome 13
U3191, with ZD4 Joe Ross. Mind those nails!
Left to right: football fan SX426, CO5494 Ian Skivens, TW107
Billy Nomates: CW3055

I s-pie blue: CO5466 'Laughing boy', CO2558 Stephen Discombe, EK127 Alan Palfrey
Should have gone to Specsavers: HT915

Sunday, 29 March 2009

G20 march

Yesterday, on the G20 march through London, a couple of thousand flyers were given to trade union participants, raising the issue of police surveillance on demonstrations. Yet, given the policing style used on the march (anarchist block excepted) they could be excused for wondering what all the fuss is about.

The trade union delegations were lightly policed with surveillance kept at a discrete distance. Other similarly peaceful and co-operative protests in London have not been so fortunate. Take the marches for Burmese or Tibetan independance for example, large good natured protests that were subject to intense surveillance.

Trade unionists should also take a careful look at the policing of the climate camp last year in Kent, at which police appeared to have a free hand to harass and intimidate protesters and journalists who had done nothing unlawful (see the Guardian). They should also note the careful police surveillance carried out on union members on picket lines during the recent oil refinery dispute.

If all protest was policed with the respect shown to the trade unionists yesterday, there would have been no reason for the Joint Committee on Human Rights (not exactly a militant group!) to condemn last week the way that protest is surveilled and criminalised.

Trade unionists with no direct experience of just how unpleasant, aggressive and violent the policing of protest can be, may find it difficult to understand the more confrontational attitudes expressed in some postings on this blog. What I hope they do understand is that there is no one set of views or opinions attached to FITwatch. This blog is used to document and monitor the activities of Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT), but is also a forum for authors to express their individual views and opinions on protest policing. Readers, supporters and other FITwatch authors are free to disagree with what is said.

Support for this initiative extends from the confrontational to the liberal, and people have responded to the issues of surveillance and harassment in many different ways. Alternative approaches, new or traditional, are always welcome.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

FITwatch suggestions for dealing with public order policing on G20 protests

Police Cordons

Cordons are used frequently by police because they are very effective at ‘shutting down’ a protest. They are uncomfortable, unpleasant and deeply frustrating.

The 'controlled area' may take the form of a metal ‘pen’ made of crowd control barriers. Where that isn’t possible, they will circle the crowd and contain it with a human barrier of police officers, if necessary wearing riot gear and using shields. They may hold the demonstration in one place or move it ‘in a controlled fashion’ to where they want it to go.

The police may keep people in a cordon for several hours. They will usually only agree to release people one by one, with each person being photographed and forced to provide a name and address.

Cordons are a huge problem to those who want to demonstrate without being under the complete control of the police, but they are difficult for activists to deal with.

Even so, some tactics have been used to challenge cordons with some success (see below). Where there is more serious disorder the police may try to disperse a crowd instead, using baton charges, shields, horses etc. Which at least has the benefit of getting you out of the cordon….

Don’t be a sheep stuck in a pen!

Prevent the cordon being formed:

Keep together, keep moving. A crowd that stays in the same place for a long time, or which is moving only very slowly is easy to cordon. A crowd that sticks tightly together and which moves quickly is much harder to control.

Keep a look out – it is usually possible to see when the police are putting a cordon in place. If you see this shout to everyone that this is happening, and encourage your group to move out of the area quickly and together.

If you are in a cordon:

Keep moving. A still, quiet, passive crowd is easy for the police to control. Getting people moving, shouting, chanting, and acting together makes it harder for the police to keep the upper hand. People have often broken out of cordons, and even metal pens, by using this tactic.

Stick together. It happens rarely in the UK, but elsewhere in Europe activists have refused to be released one by one, or to provide ID or submit to a search. By sticking together they have often forced the police to release them as a group. This can be a very effective tactic, but it relies on a sense of solidarity rarely seen in the UK! It also takes time, so you'd have to be prepared for a long wait.

If you escape the cordon:

Don’t just give up and go down the pub, especially if the night is still young! It may be possible to regroup and attack the cordon from the outside. Police do not like being outflanked and can occasionally be ‘persuaded’ to pull back and open the cordon. Failing that you can at least make some noise, stretch police resources, or simply get essentials like bottles of water to those being contained.


Snatch Squads

These are teams of TSG (Metropolitan police boot boys) who go into a crowd to make an arrest. They can operate on demos or within cordons. If you see it happen, don’t just stand and watch! Grab hold of the person they are trying to arrest and hold on! Snatch squads cannot operate if there is good crowd resistance to them, and you could save someone from violence and imprisonment.


Police Surveillance

Police use ‘overt’ surveillance by uniformed officers in Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) controlled by CO11, the Metropolitan police public order unit.

They have three key roles:

Gathering evidence They take footage from early in the day so that they can later try to use the film to incriminate people or identify them from their shoes or clothes

Data gathering They gather data on people for their protester database, so that they build up a detailed picture of which activists attend protests repeatedly. They record visual images, ID (often obtained in stop and search), ‘known associates’ and any other personal details thought to be useful

Harassment style policing When ‘known’ (see above) individuals can become subjects of what the Home Secretary described as ‘harassment style policing’. People are followed at close quarter by uniformed officers, who will listen to conversations, phone calls, and generally be intimidating and unpleasant.


Don’t be a victim

Protect your ID Hoods, sunglasses etc are useful ways of not ending up on a database. Face coverings are useful too, but can provoke a violent police response. They have the power to remove and seize face coverings.

Don’t give them your name and address There is no valid reason for the police to demand your name and address for being at a demonstration. Tell them where to go. Don’t carry bank cards or anything else with your name on, they will use this to ID you in a stop and search.

Data gather on them Take their pictures, note their numbers, send them to us at FITwatch. It sounds such a little thing, but they hate it so much.

Block that shot Stop the buggers working. Placards and banners work very well, if you ‘just happen’ to be standing in front of the camera...

Don’t let them harass people Would you normally just stand by and do nothing if you saw someone being stalked and harassed? It’s not easy to challenge the FIT when they are tailing an activist, but anything you can do to make their job more difficult is bound to be appreciated.


Covert surveillance

Police also use plain clothes police on demonstrations. Beware the person who is without a group of friends, who may be trying to stop people taking action, trying to control the crowd, or who is loudly criticising confrontational tactics. Also keep an eye on who is standing behind you when you are planning or discussing action of your own…


Discuss

We need more discussion about handling public order policing. Please feel free to post your views, ideas etc on the Fitwatch blog.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

You may remember we posted this picture last May, where these two were seen outside City Hall. At the time we didn't have numbers for them. Information reaches us that the gentleman on the left is YR69:

Back on the streets


It's been some time since we last had a picture of CO2558, Stephen Discombe. However, just when we were beginning to think he'd been put out to pasture, he came out of the woodwork at a demonstration today against the Army recruitment office in Dalston, Hackney. Accompanied by ZD4, one Joe Ross, and Neil Williams, they prowled around the (predominantly SWP) demonstration, finding a surprising number of pictures to take. 



Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Focus on Tower Hamlets

In the first of an occasional series, here are a number of pictures and numbers we've received of plainclothes and FIT officers from Tower Hamlets. Other boroughs will receive attention in the near future. 

Sgt HT19. Trafalgar Square, Gaza demo, 17 January 2009
HT207, on left. Trafalgar Square, Gaza demo, 17 January 2009

Here's three dubious characters: 

HT940, HT668, HT276, Bethnal Green Road, December 2008

Here these three were involved in filming Whitechapel Anarchists ostensibly under an operation to curb youth crime and disorder.


HT940 opposite Israeli Embassy, 10 January 2009


HT668 outside National Gallery, Gaza demo, 17 January 2009

It is perhaps no coincidence that HT668, HT940, HT19 and HT201 were among the FIT on these Gaza demonstrations, given the 'robust' policing which followed in and around Whitechapel where Asian men were subjected to more than usual oppressive police behaviour following the Israeli slaughter in Gaza and the resultant demonstrations.

More recently, three Tower Hamlets plainclothes officers, and the ubiquitous HT668, were seen outside the Rampart venue off Commercial Road near Whitechapel last Thursday when the owner's agents attempted to evict the squatted building. The plainclothes officers somewhat undermined their disguise by donning elements of police uniform.

HT656



HT866


The blond cop facing camera decided merely to don the stab-proof vest, maintaining his anonymity for the time being.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Fitwatching Goes Mainstream

It has been fantastic to see the mainstream coverage being given to protesting policing and surveillance with the protester database story and the report into the policing of the Climate Camp making front page news of The Guardian, as well as shocking footage showing the attitude of evidence gatherers towards journalists. This coverage has been extended in the Comment is Free section with various articles, including one by Fitwatch activists.

Since these revelations, Allyn Thomas, Assistant Chief Constable for Kent police has apologised to journalists, and the climate camp report has been referred by Kent police to the IPCC for further investigation. The fitwatchers arrested and remanded at Climate camp are now looking forward to their apology after their charges were recently dropped.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Hartshorn, head of the Public Order Unit, has been busy creating his very own "summer of rage." Whist people arising from their apathy and creating change through confronting corporations and state is a beautiful image, this prediction has arisen from the manipulative mind of a senior police officer rather than political propaganda.

Undoubtedly, Hartshorn will try to use this fantasty to justify a summer of repression against activists. However, public order policing is coming under attack from all angles - and any attempts at crushing dissent will be held accountable.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Watching the FIT at the G20

Recent articles in the Guardian have brought what we've been saying about the FIT for some time to a wider audience. With demonstrations in London against the G20 planned for the end of March and start of April, many thousands of people will have the chance to see the FIT in action for themselves. The FIT will certainly be out in force for the week of events, kicking off with TUC march on 28 March, then the convergence on the City of London on 1 April and the G20 Meltdown events around the ExCel Centre on 2 April.

We're in a stronger position now than ever. The media coverage, and the comments posted on websites, shows that the police antipathy to demonstrators is no longer something to which a few people object. Rather, building on the work we've been doing for several years we have an opportunity to really make a mark at the end of the month, when a severe blow can be struck against the FIT. The demonstrations against the vile Israeli onslaught on Gaza show that the FIT haven't as tight a grip as once they did. To keep up the momentum and to increase the pressure, we urge you to participate in fitwatching activities. This can be as confrontational as you like, from noting their numbers and taking their pictures - still legal despite reports to the contrary - to getting in the way of their cameras and preventing them taking your photograph, or the photographs of others around you.

Point out the FIT to people around you and tell them what the FIT are up to - the FIT thrive on hiding among their colleagues and hate being thrust into the limelight.

To make the most of this opportunity, we need your help. Come along on March 28, on April 1 and April 2 - and, don't forget, your pictures of the FIT could win you a prize. For full details see the website.