I wasn't sure at first, if I was going to write this piece. I had to sit down and have a brew and a fag, and think this one through.
My question to self was, can I write a post in support of the Millbank protesters?
No. I can't. I despise them. I despise their actions, their politics and everything they stand for.
That is not a disclaimer in case the smokeys want to take down my site, it's simply a sentiment I hold for anyone who would rather commit violence than pay their own way in life.
However, I can write a post in defence of free speech and I can write a post in defence of fitwatch.org. They do some good work in exposing the tactics of the Forward Intelligence Teams which are criminal and insupportable in themselves.
So here we are.
....the Met's "e-crime unit" informed Fitwatch's website hosting service – JustHost.com – that the blog was being used to attempt to pervert the course of justice by providing guidance to "offenders"."We hereby request [you] de-host this website for a minimum period of 12 months," it said in a letter seen by the Guardian. "The website is providing explicit advice to offenders following a major demonstration in central London.
I would strongly dispute this statement, particularly the reference to "guidance for offenders", having read what was posted on the site.
It is repeated in full below:
Students who are worried should consider taking the following actions:If I had attended that demonstration* in a peaceful manner and watched the shit hit the fan around me, I would already be taking most of this advice, particularly if my picture had been taken. The police were embarrassed by the way they let the situation get out of hand. Now they need arrests and evidence will be thin on the ground. Even if I had committed no crime, I would not relish an arrest and interrogation right now.
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.
Pre-emptive legal advice and the ability to deny I was ever there would be the strongest weapons in my arsenal.
The site says: "If you fear you may be arrested as a result of identification by CCTV, FIT or press photography;". Not, if you have committed a criminal act. I'm sure the police will want to arrest and interrogate anyone who can be identified through photographs, as part of a fishing expedition.
Being arrested as an innocent person is a nightmare. I dread to think what it would be like if it was an attempted murder investigation.
Most of this info is simply common sense. What is most worrying is that the police did not need anything like a court order to get this result. They simply wrote a letter requesting the site be taken down and their will was done.
What the police do not realise, and for the life of me I don't know why they can't work out something so simple, is that you cannot censor the internet. There are already rumblings of the site going back up elsewhere. Other sites have already re-published the information and others will continue to do so.
What was contained and easy for them to monitor will now go viral.
*Lord in heaven forbid! If my politics ever become so marred, please shoot me.