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Policewatch Films

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

English FIT working in Scotland

We recieved this report about FIT presence at the recent EDL and counter demonstrations in Edinburgh.

Just a wee update about the general FIT presence in Scotland.

Last Saturday seen the largest FIT presence on the streets of Edinburgh since the G8. Ian Skivins, Mark Scully and Paul Mathers from London, one photographer from Manchester
(see pics), and loads from Edinburgh and Glasgow were all spotted.

The sight of Glasgow FIT is new as previously Strathclyde Police have steered away from met style policing. During the G8 in scotland the officer in charge of policing the Faslane demo deliberately kept the Met's FIT in the canteen so that they wouldn't " wind people up" (his own words). The Glasgow FIT have a darker shade of blue on their jackets and so are quite recognisable.

Many of the Edinburgh FIT are familiar faces to many activists in Edinburgh and were used extensively during Novembers anti-NATO demo's, including following people into several cafes and pubs and hassling the staff into making them leave, and following people around the city, in some cases for hours. Also, interestingly, Ian Casswell visited Mainshill during the eviction in plain black clothing. Shame for him his bearded mug is instantly recognisable and his attempts at sparking up conversation were met with abuse.

The Manchester cop shown above (1407) appears to be a fairly recent addition to the team of 'national' FIT that keep appearing in demos up and down the country. As well as showing up in Edinburgh, he was spotted in Brighton last month. We'd love to know a little more about him. If anyone has had any previous involvement with him, or if anyone has just seen him hanging around, please contact

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Harsh sentences for Gaza protesters

Further harsh sentences were doled out yesterday as more of those arrested at the Gaza demonstrations last year attended Isleworth Crown Court for sentencing. A total of fifty people are to be sentenced for taking part in violent disorder during the protests outside the Israeli Embassy in Kensington last January. Previous sentencing has ranged between twelve months and two and a half years.

A further two defendants, both described as being of ‘exemplary character’ were yesterday sentenced to two years imprisonment. Another, for whom this was also a first offence, was sent down for 12 months. Four who had been under 18 at the time of the offence received detention orders ranging from 8 to 12 months. One was given a suspended sentence on grounds of mental illness, and two others were adjourned for pre-sentence reports.

The court was told how the defendants were fighting with police, although most of the allegations were of throwing or hitting out with flimsy placard sticks at riot police in full protective gear. A few of the defendants were also accused of ‘assisting’ others with picking up and throwing crowd control barriers that had been used by police to kettle protesters.. But there were no reports of any injuries sustained by anyone as a result of their actions. One man, a university student, got twelve months for throwing a single missile. His family sobbed in the gallery.

The court was not told about – nor seemed at all interested in - the context in which this violence happened. The court was not told about the police violence that was meted out on Gaza protesters during the numerous protests that took place in December and January last winter. How protesters were forced into pens, despite the crush that this caused. That protesters slow to move were pushed, shoved and sworn at, and those who objected, or who tried to move back barriers were hit with shields and batons.

Neither was the court interested in the political situation that was unfolding at the time. One of the defendants had recently visited part of his family in Gaza, a family including young children who were inevitably suffering under the brutal and unlawful military offensive that Israel had launched. It mattered not at all. He was sentenced to two years.

The Judge made it clear that the aim of these sentences was to act as a ‘deterrent to others’. It was not the behaviour of the individual that was important, he said, but the collective behaviour of the crowd.

These sentences cannot be seen as anything other than political, given the sustained effort and committment the state has put in to bringing so many people before the courts. The ‘deterrent’ effect intended is surely that of making Muslim communities fearful of taking to the streets again.
Other coverage:
And further info on the

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Gaza report condemns policing

The Islamic Human Rights Commission today released a damning report of the policing of the Gaza demonstrations in December 08 and January 09.

The report highlights the unnecessary and brutal use of force by the Metropolitan police as well as the practice of crushing protesters into protest 'pens' and the discriminatory treatment of Muslim protesters.

It also heavily criticises the use of Forward Intelligence Teams.

From the report:

i) The Role and Function of Forward Intelligence Teams (FITs)

IHRC is concerned about the role and function of FITs and their potential impact on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), Article 10 (freedom of expression), Article 11 (freedom of peaceful assembly and association) andArticle 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the ECHR. For the duration of the London Gaza demonstrations, there was an obvious and extensive presence of FITs.105 On occasion, IHRC observers noted that visiblyMuslim activists were closely studied; for example, an IHRC volunteer had to give her details, as she was video recorded for selling merchandise. She claimed thatmembers from other organisations were not harassed for selling their merchandise. Moreover, she claims that FITmembers dealt with her in an aggressive and intimidating fashion.

Subsequent to the BBC protest in Trafalgar Square (24 January 2009), a group of pro-Palestinian protesters were surrounded, cornered into a side street (near the theatre in Leicester Square) and made to line up against the wall. Each protester was ‘meticulously’ video-recorded and photographed. Pictorial evidence clearly depicts this scene and a witness stated that members of the pro-Palestinian contingent were made to say something in front of the camera.106 IHRC is concerned that FITs may be overreaching powers granted by virtue of section 50 PRA. Furthermore, IHRC expresses disquiet over reports of harassment and
house raids of those who had provided theMPS with personal details for the duration of the London Gaza demonstrations.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Monitoring Network Keeps the Spotlight on Police Brutality

With the police adopting an increasingly confrontational and often violent approach to maintaining ‘order’ at public protests, the presence of trained legal observers, to collect information that may be helpful in later court proceedings and assist activists who are arrested or need medical attention, has become essential. Their focus is on the safety of demonstrators, without which the ‘right to protest’ is severely undermined if people are intimidated by the fear of police brutality from taking part in one of the vital elements of a democratic society.

At the G20 protests in April 2009, senior police officers sanctioned excessive force with an apparent expectation, based on previous experience, that the press and the public wouldn’t that much care about protesters. Taken aback by the spotlight placed upon them by the storm of complaints that followed, particularly the video evidence from members of the public that provided evidence of violent conduct, the police have been forced onto the defensive. So far this has led directly to the review of public order policing, Adapting to Protest, by Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Dennis O’Connor and the extremely low-key policing of last summer’s Climate Camp in Blackheath. Whether the review will really change anything and how long the new approach to policing protests will last, however, is far from certain. Much will depend on maintaining a constant level of scrutiny on police tactics and conduct.

With little confidence in public bodies like the Independent Police Complaints Commission and to try and ensure that attention remains focused on the policing of protest, four experienced organisations have set up the Police Monitoring Network to train and collate information from ‘police monitors’ at demonstrations around the country.

Members of the network include the legal team from Climate Camp, FITwatch (who monitoring oppressive surveillance by police ‘forward intelligence’ teams), the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group (who provide legal observers at demonstrations and grew out of the Trafalgar Square Defendants Campaign and Poll Tax Prisoners Support Group) and Newham Monitoring Project (an east London community organisation that has supported black communities to challenge police misconduct since 1980). They are joined by solicitors with expertise in civil actions against the police.

Police monitors will complement the role provided by legal observers in ensuring the safety of demonstrators but will focus specifically on scrutinising the actions of the police – whether, for example, police officers are covering identification numbers or psyching themselves up for violence and when police commanders are using tactics like kettling" that increase the likelihood of confrontation.

Training for police monitors, aimed initially at those who already have experience as legal observers, is planned for March 2010 and a website will be up and running shortly. For further information, contact FITwatch at

Monday, 1 February 2010

FIT at Stop the War

An estimated 600 police were on duty last Friday to police the Stop the War protest outside the QEII conference centre where Blair was giving evidence to the Iraq war inquiry. They probably outnumbered the protesters.
The demonstration had been stopped from assembling on the green of the QEII centre as they'd planned, and was instead coralled, without resistance, into Storey's gate and other side roads. There the policing relaxed, and as the day wore on, the ring of police and protesters around the conference centre began to resemble a giant square dance, unlikely to erupt into anything more threatening than an impromptu do-si-do.

The FIT, on the other hand, were keen to keep up their usual brand of intimidation and harassment. Photographer Neal Williams (pictured), along with his FIT minder, hovered behind the lines of TSG, every few minutes firing his camera flashgun in the faces of those picked out as 'potential trouble-makers'.

And the Hammersmith and Fulham cop (FH70), pictured top left, entered enthusiastically into the spirit of things, ordering three stop and searches, and at least one arrest for breach of the peace. He was a little too keen, perhaps, to impress his friends in the public order unit.
Pictures: Sgt FH70; Public Order police from Scotland Yard's CO11, CO5090 and Chief Inspector; Neal Williams, FIT photographer.

stop and search

Climate protestors this weekend won a major High Court victory against the unlawful police stop and search operation used against protesters at their camp in Kingsnorth, Kent in August 2008.
It had been the largest and most expensive such operation in UK history involving 26 police forces. Led by Kent police, these forces carried out a continuous, systematic and unlawful mass stop and search regime

In the High Court the police accepted an Order that the searches of the three claimants had been 'unlawful', and constituted a violation oftheir human rights to privacy (breach of Article 8 of the EuropeanConvention on Human Rights), to freedom of expression (breach ofArticle 10) and freedom of association (breach of Article 11).

Climate camp legal team have suggested that the 3,500 other searches carried under the same search laws (s1 PACE) would also have been unlawful.. All those searched under such laws can now sue the police and submit claims for damages. Those affected should log on to the climate camp website to see how to proceed with a claim.

The legal team claim that this case was won despite police efforts to deny there was any systematic stop and search policy. Their ludicrous position collapsed after a key 'smoking gun' document came to light revealing that the police 'bronze commanders' in charge of the operation atKingsnorth were systematically giving briefings for blanket stop and searches.

Three FITwatch defendants who were arrested and imprisoned for four days for photographing the stop and search operation at Kingsnorth are also persuing legal action.