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.