Once again the ability of Smash EDO to stand up to police bullying and intimidation was impressive and inspiring. This was perhaps most obvious as the police blocked the march to the EDO factory and marchers stood their ground against police batons and pepper spray.
But it was noticable from the start in the way that people responded to the demands of FIT and evidence gatherers to co-operate with police filming, and to remove masks and face coverings, on threat of arrest. When a group in the centre of the crowd defiantly refused to remove their masks, those around them responded with solidarity and repeatedly drove the police back when they tried to move in to seize both masks and the people that were wearing them.
This meant that, as the march moved off, many people were wearing masks, and were able to preserve their anonymity in the face of a huge intelligence and data gathering operation.
The police used no less than ten evidence gathering teams (EGT), all armed with video cameras, too many for the normal fitwatch crew to deal with. But fitwatching was made effective by so many people joining in with scarves, flags and whatever came to hand, and the EGT were constantly hassled and were frequently forced to withdraw when they could get no useful footage.
Neither were the EGT on their own. Most of the Met police public order cops, and the rag tag bunch of ‘extremist watcher’ cops from around the country that Fitwatch flagged up on the spotter card, were indeed present, plus a few more besides. Despite such fire power, Smash EDO marchers were still able to do a brilliant job in messing with police ‘intelligence’.
There were a number of occasions during the day when the police were clearly outflanked and without a clue. On one occasion Met public order cop Steve Discombe was heard panicking into his radio, “What do you want us to do? We need to know what to do. Someone has to make a decision, now!”
Perhaps the most amusing moment came late on in the day when the police kettled and herded a crowd of a few hundred into the park at the Level, only to realise too late that they had forgotten to close off the other side. With police vans rushing around in panic trying to head them off, the marchers simply walked through the park and out the other side, unkettled and unherded. Surely heads will roll for that one!
All in all, Smash EDO were organised, strong, determined and inspiring, and I hope that Fitwatch played a small part at least in helping the day along.