We’re back and ready for the fightback!

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We are at  war. A war on the poor; the undfitwatchingerprivileged; the disabled. A war against those who stand up for themselves, those who strike or protest.

This war is raging. The question is, when will we start fighting back? How many times do we have to read of people dying through poverty; of claimants committing suicide through benefit cuts and sanctions? How much racism do we have to see on our streets? How many have to die in police custody? How many have to be beaten up and imprisoned? When do we finally say enough is enough, when do we rebel and fulfil our duty to be ungovernable?

Welcome back to Fitwatch. We know it’s been a while, but we’ve needed time out to recharge. But we’re back, invigorated, and ready to join the fightback.

Change isn’t going to happen overnight, and there’s lots of battles ahead. But, if we are going to win, it’s through mutual aid and solidarity; through militancy and a diversity of tactics; through not playing the state’s game of divide and rule.

To win, we also need an understanding of police and state tactics; we need to protect ourselves, learn how to keep ourselves and others safe, and take action to counter their tactics. We need to keep ourselves off their databases, out of the courts and prisons, and on the streets.

On June 20th, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity are holding a demonstration in Central London. Whilst we don’t know the numbers or the intent of those attending, thousands are expected to join the protests with coaches providing transport across the country, with many not wanting to accept the flaccid state sanctioned mistakes of the marches against the Iraq war.

Equally, we must learn from more recent mobilisations, and the clampdowns which have followed. Fitwatch have published much advice in the past regarding personal safety and security which we recommend you read.

However, here are some of the key points:

  • Mask up and wear black. Protect yours and others anonymity. Join Netpol’s privacy bloc and support their campaign to keep people off the domestic extremist databases.
  • There is no such thing as a friendly chat with the police. This is particularly true of PLOs who will use their “friendliness” as a guise for intelligence gathering.
  • Remember NO COMMENT. There are very few occasions when you have to give personal details to the cops. If you’re arrested, you only have to give a name and verifiable address to get bail. Otherwise, answer no comment to all questions and contact a good solicitor.  Once released, contact GBC or LDMG legal support groups for help and advice.
  • Be careful what you post on social media. The cops will trawl through social media for evidence. Think before you post that action shot – is the post going to end up as part of the evidence against someone later on? If you do insist on posting photographs or video, blur faces. The same applies to live streaming – consider what the purpose is of streaming, and whether you are doing the cop’s job for them by providing them with hours of intelligence and evidence.
  • Block their cameras and disrupt their intelligence gathering.  Use traditional Fitwatch direct action tactics to stop them filming.  Disrupt the PLOs and stop their intelligence gathering.  Take their photos and send them to us at info@fitwatch.org.uk
  • Get a cheap disposable phone which doesn’t contain all the details of your life and social networks. Cops regularly seize phones during mass arrests and trawl through them to build a bigger intelligence picture. Don’t give them the opportunity – leave the smart phone at home.
  • If things kick off, don’t accuse protesters of being agent provocateurs. Respect a diversity of protest and that people want to express their dissent in different ways. Remember UK political policing is based on a model of total control of public order situations – often employing violence to regain control, so it is unlikely they are going to start damaging property or causing disruption. Accusing justifiably angry protesters of being agent provocateurs without evidence is damaging and undermining.
  • Total policing requires total cooperation. You don’t have to co-operate with having your picture taken on the streets, and you don’t have to follow all the instructions given to you by cops. Mass arrests require cooperation – imagine how much harder it is  to arrest 100 people who are resisting than 100 people passively waiting in line to be loaded onto buses? Non cooperation doesn’t have to end on the streets – if you’re arrested, you can make it hard for them by refusing to answer questions, refusing fingerprints and DNA samples (though be aware these can be taken violently by force), and make them think twice about mass arrests in the future. Jail solidarity can and does work but only do what you feel able to do.

Stay safe! Stay strong! See you on the streets!

PLO block hits the streets at Sussex

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The following report is from PLO block, operational at Sussex university on Monday…

A large banner and a small group of people (it can work well with just 3 people) is all you need for PLO blocking.

PLO block turned out for the Sussex National Demo against Privatization. Although the group have all engaged in cold stares at PLO officers on previous actions, it was our first time actively blocking them for most of the protest – it turned out to be an incredibly fun and effective tactic, stopping evidence gathering, slowing down police response, and showing their true colours behind that baby blue to other protestors.

These two liaison officers had not yet mastered the ‘disarming charm’ of other PLOs, nor had they mastered pretending to liaise whilst actually information gathering. They didn’t make much of an effort to mingle in the crowd or to make ‘friends’ with protestors. Initially they kept at a distance from the march – taking a walk through the daffodils rather than joining the main march. They wanted to watch and report on the protest and didn’t make much effort to disguise this as they desperately tried to dodge our banner which blocked their view of events. They spent a good deal of time liaising with their radios. As things did get more interesting on the march, they did try to get a lot closer, pushing their way to get to the front of where stuff was happening and trying to embed themselves in the crowd – us and our banner frustrating them even more as their view was limited to “say no to PLO!”. Outside Sussex house, as we stood blocking one of them (they kept deviating from the usual working in pairs model), he reported over on his radio – “they’re banging on the doors” – presumably he knew this from sound rather than vision which was being blocked by the banner. Helpfully, we took this chance, and other opportunities that arose, to shout other information down the radio and his ear.

As well as hampering their evidence gathering and police communication, following them around and holding a banner over them also attracted laughing from other protestors, and when we explained what we were doing, they showed their support. Highlighting the PLOs presence and their role in such a way also built up hostility in the crowd towards them and they joined in with PLO blocking – as the PLO attempted to speak with someone in the crowd, another woman shouted “what was that? Can you hear something?” Another group of people with a banner came to block the PLO with us, creating a funnel shape with the two banners on either side of the PLO and funnelling him out away from the crowd.

There were a couple of occasions when we did lose one or both of them, but overall, we stuck with them for most of the day. This meant that they definitely spent more time trying to dodge us and escape from under our banner than evidence gathering. On one of the occasions when they did escape our watch, it turns out that one PLO had whipped off his bib to join his police buddies during scuffles with protestors (making the point that we had been raising earlier for us – “PLOs are not your friends, they are the police”). When PLO block were not on their case though, other protestors took up the job for us – from the Sussex Police Liaison Twitter account it turns out that protestors had thrown paint and ‘targeted’ the PLOs.

The effectiveness of these tactics can be seen by the PLO desperately trying to speak with a protestor in the crowd to find out what had been happening to Sussex house whilst he had been under the banner. He had not seen a thing. We were there to bring this conversation to an end.

(PLO online – it seems that blocking them on the ground is not enough. They’re out there on Twitter too trying to fuck things up for us. In response to a tweet about the PLOs being hounded off campus, @SuptSimonNelson tweeted “what a shame – there to advise and support”. Fortunately other Twitter users were there to put him straight.)

Vauxhall Squat Raids

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These pictures were taken during the eviction of squats in Vauxhall tonight. The eviction was resisted, and it took a reported eight and a half hours to finally clear squatters from the building and the roof.

From what we have been told, the buildings are being torn down for redevelopment.

There seems no shortage of cops to turn squatters out on the street, no matter how many cuts are made to police spending. Doing the bidding of influential property owners is clearly a priority.

Disturbingly, the private security company for the site was also seen taking pictures of the people on the street around the squat, and the vehicle being used to carry away their possessions. What does a private company do with photos like that, we wonder?

New Years Eve Prisoner Solidarity Demo

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Does exactly what it says on the tin.

Lets be honest, this year has been a disheartening one. State and security forces have repositioned themselves with guns towards us (quite literally, in some cases) and scored significant victories against the dissenting population.

Next year looks set to be a difficult one, with many of the worst austerity measures taking effect in 2013. If we are to get through the ensuing chaos, we need to do it shoulder-to-shoulder, acting in solidarity with each other.

So, lets use some of the last hours of 2012 to put this solidarity into practice.

7:30pm @ HMP Pentonville
9:00pm @ HMP/YOI Holloway

Thanks to London Anarchist Black Cross for organising this.

Plain clothes cop at Fridays demo

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Cops turning up to demos in plain clothes seems to be a regular occurence these days. These pics were taken at the Fight for Sites demo on Friday. Although he appears to have forgotten his uniform, the man pictured is Constable Mark Stoddart.

A number of cops in plain clothes have been pictured previously turning up to demos in inappropriate dress. The following spotter card appeared on the Fitwatch blog last November – who knows, some of them might even be out again today.

If you see plain clothes cops, dont just keep it to yourself. You may want to draw attention to them – shouting ‘cop’ while jumping up and down and pointing, for instance – so that everyone knows who and where they are. The crowd around you will then be able to decide on an appropriate response…

Stay Safe; Stay Anonymous! #5 – Block & Disrupt!

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Okay, so by now we should know all the basic preventative measures we can take to defend our anonymity. But there is one more thing we can be doing this October 20th to proactively assert our freedom to dissent without state repression. This is, of course, the classic FITwatch Direct Action tactics that made life so difficult for the FIT that they have had to reshape their role considerably on the ground. But we need to keep it up if we want to stay off their databases and defend our demonstrations from their intimidation. We cannot afford complacency. Here is a breakdown of different tactics that have been tried in the past, with some legal notes.

1) When they move their camera towards you, you have a legal right to block their shot. This is supported by the Metropolitan Police’s own policy on surveillance, as evidenced in Form 5454 on Overt Photography and surveillance. You can ask for a hard copy of this if you want, to prove they have authorisation, but they are likely to tell you they cant issue one. Use anything you can to block their camera. This works twice as good if you are masked up. The more people that take responsibility for themselves on an individual level, the less likely they are to continue.

2) FIT are there to fulfill a certain remit. They are there, essentially, to harass and intimidate the crowd into submission and obedience. If their presence causes the crowd to react in some way, for instance, the crowd makes a move towards them with a banner to collectively block their shot and vocally protests against their presence, they are highly likely to withdraw. This has proven incredibly effective on a number of demonstrations and has resulted in no recorded arrests.

3) The most legally contentious strategy is for a group to actively block FIT cameras.   This is much less likely to result in arrest when lots of people do it.  If you see people FITwatching, don’t just watch, join in!  Getting rid of the FIT is of benefit to everyone, and if everyone takes responsibility for doing it, they don’t stand a chance!
Affinity groups are useful for FITwatching at crucial times, such as when the FIT are gathering intel as people congregate at the start of the demo.  This is a vulnerable time for many people as they may not yet be masked up, or may be unaware that the FIT are noting down identifying features or footwear.  Do a little FITwatching and make everyone safer.

4) Anything else you can think of that turns their tactics on them. Gen up on their names and faces with a FITwatch spotter card and call them by their names on the street. Film them. Photograph them. Follow them. Anything that lets them know they aren’t welcome on the demonstration. Again, all these things are fairly legal, but you should make sure you do it with some friends – just like any other piece of direct action.

So that’s it for now…see you on the streets tomorrow!


FITwatch Crew.

Stay Safe; Stay Anonymous! #4 – Fashion Tips for Dissidents

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Whilst what you wear on a demo is on one level (quite rightly) unimportant, it can be used as a great tool to disrupt intelligence gathering activities. When such a large part of political policing rests on the ability to profile, identify, isolate (and subsequently harass) individuals and groups, it makes sense to be able to change the way you present yourself to the world when you are on the streets for a big demo. This helps make it harder for them to identify you in a crowd and harder to retrospectively piece together footage to make a coherent picture of yourself, the company you choose to keep and the movements you choose to make. Thus making the intimidation and harassment of participants much harder for them. Again, it is another perfectly legal way of FITwatching that can be used to great effect. We have already discussed Masking Up in an earlier post, so we wanted to make a more general point about what to wear.

On Wearing Black:

  • If you are on a section of the march where everyone is wearing black, make sure you wear PLAIN black clothing with no identifying features (logos, patches, coloured trimming or details). If you must, you can cover logos up with black tape, but this is not always advisable as tape falls off eventually. You can also use permanent marker if you wish.
  • Think of everything; socks, shoes, gloves, face mask etc…keep it black, plain and cheap (so it doesn’t matter if you decide to chuck it away at some point).
  • Wearing head-to-toe black is a great way to stay anonymous when everyone else is doing the same, but for all those times in between you will want to think about changing your appearance in other ways – have an alternative outfit to change into and maybe even a few extra accessories to mix it up a bit (different scarves, gloves, lightweight shoes etc.)
  • You might want to wear your rucksack under your jacket sometimes – this helps reduce identification but, more importantly, reduces the chances of having someone pull hard on your backpack and pull you towards them (sometimes causing a loss of footing). This can sometimes happen in dense crowd situations when there are surging movements forwards and backwards. Or you could cut the small ‘carry handle’ off your backpack, as others like to do.


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Stay Safe; Stay Anonymous! #3 – Affinity Groups

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For the purposes of a mass demonstration, affinity groups – small groups of people who attend the same demonstration together – are a great way to stay safe and anonymous, providing a miniature support network that is both empowering and practical. This is one of the first things you should be considering in preparing for this October 20th, so start thinking about people you would like to team up with. Consider the following:

  • Are they known to you? The most important part is that you have a degree of trust in the individuals you are with. Solidarity is the best weapon we have.
  • Are they like-minded? Make sure you pick people who are going to be supportive of any action you may choose to take. You are aiming to arrive together, and leave together – so it’s not ideal to have one or two people leave the group to pursue one form of action because the rest of the group isn’t comfortable with it, although you may choose to be more flexible.
  • Are they legally savvy? You should all have a read of LDMG’s ‘No Comment’ booklet to brush up on your rights. (This is available for FREE online here or FREE, in print, at Freedom Bookshop.)
  • Are they protest savvy? Similarly, ensure you have all read and understood the rest of our Stay Safe; Stay Anonymous! posts as a minimum if you dont have much experience of big demonstrations.

Advantages of being in an affinity group:

  • It is much harder to be ‘snatched’ from the crowd when the police begin to attack, particularly if the affinity group link arms.
  • It is much easier to negotiate big crowds of people with a small group moving in a considered and tactical fashion.
  • If your affinity group decides to mask up etc. it is much easier to maintain your anonymity.
  • More eyes, more ears and more brains. Much easier to maintain mobility and safety.

Top Tips:

  • ‘Buddy Up’. This is when, within the affinity group, people form groups of two and agree to watch each other’s back all day, aiming not to split up at all until at a safe space. This is a useful way of making sure everyone takes responsibility for keeping each other safe, as well as making personal tactical preferences easier to negotiate. Ideally, your ‘action buddy’ should be the person you feel most tactically similar to on the day.

Have a codename for your group on the day, to identify each other with instead of using names. This should be something benign and something that is unlikely to be shouted at a demonstration, so unfortunately it usually means your codename is kind of silly. Refer to each other as this codename for the duration of the day, so you are in the habit of responding to it when you find yourself in a noisy or stressful crowd situation.

  • Have an identifying hand signal for your group. This is particularly useful when moving through crowds. For instance, if you have to move quickly through a crowd towards a certain goal, you will want to avoid being split up. This may be even more difficult if you are in a situation where there are, say, lots of people in masks and hoods – especially if you happen to be facing the backs of their heads. Having a few people in the affinity group hold their arm high with an identifying hand signal means you don’t have to shout your codename till you are hoarse but essentially performs a similar function.
  • If anyone is arrested, make sure an independent legal observer from an organisation approved by the Network for Police Monitoring is informed right away. This includes LDMG (Legal Defence & Monitoring Group), GBCLegal (Green & Black Cross) and NMP (Newham Monitoring Project).


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Stay Safe: Stay Anonymous! #2 – Masking Up

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maskThis is possibly the easiest form of FITwatching that can be done. It is 100% legal (although you need to read the Legal Information at the bottom of this post), keeps you off a database and, when done en masse, creates a sea of obscured faces that are much harder to identify. This is something everyone should be doing on demonstrations, particularly in London – a city smothered by blanket surveillance.
However, there are a few things we should bear in mind when engaging in this form of FITwatching:

When, Where, Who, Why…

  • If travelling alone or with a small group of friends (an ‘affinity group’), move quickly and smoothly round the streets to find the demonstration. It is not advisable to mask up before reaching a crowd, as this draws attention to you. However, you should use your initiative – if the cops are already making moves towards you, you might want to mask up.
  • Once there, mask up in a nice spot in the crowd, an enclosed doorway or other public-accessible space; toilets, alleyways etc. away from the obvious glare of the police, journalists, CCTV or other people who might (intentionally or otherwise) be documenting your movements and jeopardising your anonymity.
  • If there is civil disobedience, direct action or crowd responses to aggressive policing taking place, then make sure you mask up if you haven’t already. These are crucial moments when intelligence gathering cops of all stripes will be on the prowl and the best moment to disrupt their activities.
  • If the FIT shove a camera in your face, it goes without saying you should do whatever you can to obscure it. It is, after all, your legal right to individually refuse FIT photography/filming. If you have a mask, put it on. Ideally, you won’t let it get to this far without masking up, but it’s never too late.
  • Just because you aren’t going to do anything unlawful when you leave the house that day, doesn’t mean you don’t need to defend your anonymity. With draconian powers handed to the police on a plate for their arbitrary use, you never know when you might get your collar felt. Better safe than sorry.

Legal Information

DO know the law – common misconceptions allow the police to walk over people’s rights to remain anonymous. Face coverings are always legal to wear. However, if there is a s60aa in place on the day, a police officer may arrest you if you refuse to remove your face covering when asked to. They do not have the power to indiscriminately pull a face covering off your face on the street (but they often do, so always carry a spare!), although if they do arrest you for refusing to take it off they will obviously remove it. 

However, courts have ruled that if a face covering constitutes ‘seasonally appropriate attire’– for example, it is a cold, bright October day and you happen to be wearing a scarf and a hood to keep you warm and a baseball cap and sunglasses to keep the sun out of your eyes – then you may have a defence in court if you are arrested.


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Hashtags: #staysafe #fightingFIT #oct20