British journalist Matt Salusbury decided to investigate the information that the London police had gathered on him as part of their intimidation campaign against activists and protestors -- the Met spends over GBP9MM/year gathering "intelligence" on nonviolent, noncriminal demonstrators -- and discovered a file filled with paranoid notes about his presence at lawful public gatherings.
I don't really understand how or why the Met has become so pants-wettingly scared of peaceful protest. I have spent my life in various protest movements, and can count the number of violent or out-of-control demonstrations I've seen on the fingers of one hand, and in every instance, the loss of control began when the police decided to suddenly and forcefully break up the event.
Now Salusbury has produced a guide to getting your file from the London cops. Something we should all do, I think.
This all seems part of the change in the British government seeing its role as representing people to seeing its role as managing people.
After two Data Protection Act requests to the police, I'm bemused rather than outraged to discover 17 extant entries on me in the Metropolitan police's Crimint (criminal intelligence) database. I feature in the database because I was "seen" or "observed" at various public events. In Crimint's most recently recorded entry on me in 2007, I was stopped and searched approaching an arms fair protest that I was reporting on, and found to have my press card on me. There is no suggestion in any of my Crimint reports of any remotely criminal activity.
My Crimint database entries suggest that the Met's forward intelligence team (FIT) are interested in who's turning up to anti-arms fair demos and what they're doing there, which journalists are covering protests, and who's with the volunteer legal observers who monitor and gather evidence on arrests and other police activity on demos (usually from a safe distance). In most of my Crimint reports, I seem to be of interest to the police because I'm taking an interest in them. Much of their data is alarmingly inaccurate or poorly recorded, they get basic facts - like the colours of my bike and rucksack - wrong, and one Crimint entry finished in mid-sentence.
FIT surveillance is deliberately obvious, its "overt surveillance" carried out by police in uniform, or by uniformed civilian photographers hired by the Met. To me, it looks as if their attention's aimed at ensuring that new faces don't feel like showing up on demos or actions again, that pub landlords and other venue managers become reluctant to let activist groups use their meeting spaces, or that bands get cold feet about playing at anti-capitalist benefit gigs again... One entry on my Crimint file records a conversation I had with a City police officer back in 2002, who seemed preoccupied by me "taking note of officer's shoulder numbers", and that's a pretty good place to start. Most data I've got out of the police is the result of me scribbling down a note of the shoulder number of the police officers who have photographed me or appeared to take notes about me, the time and location, and what event they were policing, and putting these details in a letter requesting this "personal information", invoking the Data Protection Act
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