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Monday, 21 September 2009

'terrorist' photography

This is slightly old news now - had meant to put this on the blog a while back, but you know how it is. Anyway, this is on the NUJ site, and it's stuff I think FITwatchers will want to know about.

The Met has been pressured into changing its guidelines on restricting photography (see previous FITwatch post), after they turned out to be, er, bullshit.

"The original guidelines issued in July had been attacked by the NUJ as "hugely misleading" for stating that under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 police and community support officers had the right to demand to see photographs held in mobile phones and digital cameras.

"To suggest that police have the power to see anyone's photos is not just hugely misleading, it's factually wrong", said NUJ Legal Officer Roy Mincoff.

The revised guidelines clarify that officers can only inspect such photographs under section 43 if the photographer is actually suspected of being a terrorist, and that a court order may be needed to view journalistic materials, such as digital photographs or notebooks. See www.met.police.uk/about/photography.htm "

Also:"The Home Office have since issued a written circular detailing police powers under sections 43 and 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, following correspondence with NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear.

The new circular clarifies that neither section permits police officers to prohibit photography by either the press or members of the public: www.photo-terror.notlong.com"http://www.londonfreelance.org/fl/0909phot.html

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Where's all the coppers then? A first impression of DSEi policing.


Well, it wasn’t like demos of old, that is for sure. As around 200 protesters gathered for a protest in the City against the DSEi arms fair, many clad in hoodies and face masks, the lack of police was quite remarkable. There was no more than, say, 20 police in uniform, all FIT, with no police at all deployed to escort or steward the crowd. I have never seen a demonstration so lightly policed.

And there were no cameras. Chief Inspector Matt Twist stated that cameras would not be deployed ‘unless they were needed’. He was ‘quite relaxed and happy about the whole thing’, he said. In the event they were never deployed. Despite damage to windows and the invasion of offices, Twist retained his relaxed approach, and police made no attempt to intervene whatsoever. “Sorry, after the G20, we’re not allowed to do anything”, was the blatant mistruth he fed to office workers. But the protesters weren’t complaining, and the many journalists that had turned up for a ‘police mistreat demonstrators’ story went away empty handed, which appeared to be the key objective of the Met's strategy.

The absence of FIT cameras was undoubtedly down to the fact that deploying camera teams was likely to make them a focus for hostility, and any confrontation with the crowd was something they desperately wanted to avoid. It is true that the protest was taking place in one of the most heavily CCTV’d places in the world, something that made the lack of FIT cameras more bearable for the police. But even in the City, they had always used FIT cameras in the past. CCTV has limitations that hand held, portable, position-able cameras do not. If this isn’t a victory for street-based direct action, I don’t know what is.

Of course, FIT were still present and active. They relied instead on other forms of data gathering, making constant audio recordings and written notes. Twist bragged that he, personally, knew the identity of everyone on the march. And they will have spent long hours trawling around the companies later for their CCTV.

But the crucial fact in all of this was that – for the first time in many years - the police were forced to allow a protest such as this to take place. They were not able to shut it down beforehand, or to prevent people gathering. They could not harass and hassle individuals, they could not intimidate and frighten. They had to stand off and let it happen.

Long may it continue.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Policing at climate camp

Climate camp was something of a surreal experience after the aggressive policing and constant stop and searches of previous camps. There can be no denying that the public order cops were on the back foot, unable to do anything but smile and facilitate the camp, no matter what sort of provocation came their way. Even a mass outing to Canary Wharf on Friday did nothing to dampen their spirit of ‘facilitation’, and they left the ‘robust policing’ to the hoards of private security in grey suits.

To have forced the police to do back down, and to change their policing so completely from previous climate camps, is no small achievement. Climate camp legal team have put a lot of pressure on the police from all sorts of directions, and they should be given the credit for us all being able to come and go from the camp without the sort of shit we’ve had to put up with before. And they have done this without making concessions and without stirring up the good protester / bad protester rift that many liberals try to impose.

Police (and FIT) harassment was gone (for the time being at least), but police surveillance proved a harder nut to crack. Throughout the camp, remote cameras propped up on a cherry picker were able to pick out new and familiar faces for the FIT teams to focus on. FIT cops stationed at a camp set up a couple of miles away were able to get a direct feed from the camera, and from the helicopter that hovered around from time to time, without needing to be on the ground.

From the cherry picker, FIT could get high quality images of activists training on tripods, with lock on devices, and for mass actions. They were able to maintain, in the words of the Silver command Julia Pendry, an ‘information flow’.

FIT officers were also present at the SWOOP meet up points, although without their usual distinctive FIT jackets. Sgt Graham Wettone, a long standing FIT officer, insisted as he hung around watching the crowd at Bank that he was ‘just on normal duties’. In the end he had to be introduced by FITwatchers to the waiting crowd and hoards of press.

By the end of the camp, the veneer had slipped a bit. FIT teams were back, monitoring and photographing actions at Shell and RBS, although happily they met with some determined opposition.

Overall, we still have some work to do in countering police surveillance from CCTV and remote cameras stationed on cherry pickers. But there is no denying that FIT were on the back foot. They weren’t able to get away with the harassment and intimidation they are used to dishing out, and that in itself is one-up to us. Confidence is growing that we can now defeat the FIT, as is determination that we will not be their willing victims. Bring it on.









Pics: Superintendent Julia Pendry, Silver command at climate camp; a Barclays security guard at Barclays protest; Ian Caswell, one of the few regular FIT cops to make an appearance at camp; cameras and microwave transmitter mounted on cherry picker overlooking climate camp.



Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Fitwatching at Climate Camp RBS Protest



After a week of hiding in the shadows, FIT finally showed themselves with their traditional blue tabards and cameraman on Tuesday's action against RBS.

However, their job was not made easy, and they were met by fitwatchers who ensured they had a hard time gathering the data they wanted on the protesters.

More information and comment on climate camp policing to follow soon.