Tuesday, November 16, 2010



The London Metropolitan police have jumped on one of their critics, the website 'Fitwatch' (no longer operational for reasons that will become plain below) which was originally set up 3 years ago to oppose heavy handed tactics on the part of London police. The recent development comes in the wake of student demonstrations against English government austerity measures which ended in occupation of Conservative Party headquarters. With egg all over their faces for failing to anticipate the level of militancy amongst some of the demonstrators the police have reacted with a show of bravado by flailing out at their critics. Things haven't turned out as well for themas they expected. Here's a brief report on this incident from the eGov Monitor.

Police Ire Forces Shut Down Of Fitwatch Website - But The Offending Post Unsurprisingly Is Now On Various Websites

The Metropolitan Police has forced the suspension of the Fitwatch website last evening arguing that it was "being used to undertake criminal activities".

The website has been suspended, however, unsurprisingly, the particular blog post has now been published on thousands of websites across the internet beyond the Met's jurisdiction.

The move came following a blog post was published on the Fitwatch website which gave advice to students who were afraid of police action against them following their protest and occupation of the Millbank complex last week, the Guardian reported today.

Following the protest, the blog post on Fitwatch advised students to stay calm, and not hand themselves over to the police as well as change their appearances. In addition, it asked those who are worried about being arrested to stay away from similar protests planned later.

The website's hosting company, Justhost.com was approached by the Met's public order branch C11 to request the site be removed - following which a more formal request came from the Met's e-crime unit, which argued that the blog was providing "guidance" to offenders.

The letter seen by the Guardian says: ""We hereby request [you] de-host this website for a minimum period of 12 months. The website is providing explicit advice to offenders following a major demonstration in central London. The demonstration was marred by violence and several subjects have already been arrested, with a major police operation under way to identify and arrest further offenders."

An acting detective inspector, Will Hodgeson authorised the action against the website, according to the letter.

Fitwatch was set up in 2007 to campaign against what it saw as heavy handed police tactics of the Met's Forward Intelligence Teams - who take photographs of people participating in protest.

If nothing else, this decision was not thought through at all - and once again proves that police forces do not really understand how the internet works. In fact, it could be argued by taking the action, the police ensured that the particular blog post gets massive publicity and is published on various sites around the world.
As is argued above the police merely ended up with yet more egg of their faces through their actions as the advise given went viral and began appearing on blogs and websites across the world. Always ready to do her little bit Molly reproduces the article below courtesy of the Another Green World blog. For the life of me I cannot see any counselling to commit a criminal act in what follows. Actually it seems quite akin to what some police officers do when they retire ie set up a business to counsel people on how to get out of their traffic tickets. As a point of interest you can read more about this case and other incidents of internet censorship at the Committee To Protect Bloggers website.

16 Nov 2010
Banned Fitwatch article here, please re-blog.


The remarkable and brilliant student action at Millbank has produced some predictable frothing at the mouth from the establishment and right wing press. Cameron has called for the ‘full weight of the law’ to fall on those who had caused tens of thousands of pounds of damage to the expensive decor at Tory party HQ. Responsibility is being placed on ‘a violent faction’, after the march was ‘infiltrated’ by anarchists.

There are an encouraging number of initiatives to show solidarity with the arrested students – something that is vital if they are to avoid the sort of punitive ‘deterrent’ sentences handed out to the Gaza demonstrators. A legal support group has been established and the National Campaign against Cuts and Fees has started a support campaign. Goldsmiths lecturers union has publicly commended the students for a ‘magnificent demonstration’.

This is all much needed, as the establishment is clearly on the march with this one. The Torygraph has published an irresponsible and frenzied ‘shop-a-student’ piece and the Met are clearly under pressure to produce ‘results’ after what they have admitted was a policing ‘embarrassment’.

51 people have been arrested so far, and the police have claimed they took the details of a further 250 people in the kettle using powers under the Police Reform Act. There may be more arrests to come.

Students who are worried should consider taking the following actions:

If you have been arrested, or had your details taken – contact the legal support campaign. As a group you can support each other, and mount a coherent campaign.

If you fear you may be arrested as a result of identification by CCTV, FIT or press photography;

DONT panic. Press photos are not necessarily conclusive evidence, and just because the police have a photo of you doesn’t mean they know who you are.

DONT hand yourself in. The police often use the psychological pressure of knowing they have your picture to persuade you to ‘come forward’. Unless you have a very pressing reason to do otherwise, let them come and find you, if they know who you are.

DO get rid of your clothes. There is no chance of suggesting the bloke in the video is not you if the clothes he is wearing have been found in your wardrobe. Get rid of ALL clothes you were wearing at the demo, including YOUR SHOES, your bag, and any distinctive jewellery you were wearing at the time. Yes, this is difficult, especially if it is your only warm coat or decent pair of boots. But it will be harder still if finding these clothes in your flat gets you convicted of violent disorder.

DONT assume that because you can identify yourself in a video, a judge will be able to as well. ‘That isn’t me’ has got many a person off before now.

DO keep away from other demos for a while. The police will be on the look-out at other demos, especially student ones, for people they have put on their ‘wanted’ list. Keep a low profile.

DO think about changing your appearance. Perhaps now is a good time for a make-over. Get a haircut and colour, grow a beard, wear glasses. It isn’t a guarantee, but may help throw them off the scent.

DO keep your house clean. Get rid of spray cans, demo related stuff, and dodgy texts / photos on your phone. Don’t make life easy for them by having drugs, weapons or anything illegal in the house.

DO get the name and number of a good lawyer you can call if things go badly. The support group has the names of recommended lawyers on their site. Take a bit of time to read up on your rights in custody, especially the benefits of not commenting in interview.

DO be careful who you speak about this to. Admit your involvement in criminal damage / disorder ONLY to people you really trust.

DO try and control the nerves and panic. Waiting for a knock on the door is stressful in the extreme, but you need to find a way to get on with business as normal. Otherwise you’ll be serving the sentence before you are even arrested.


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