Still smarting from the failure to contain the student rioters in central London (see SchNEWS 747), the Met are peevishly taking out their anger against an old enemy. On Monday evening the hosts of the FIT WATCH website were asked to close it down on the grounds of it “being used to undertake criminal activities”. In a letter from the MET, the company Justhost.com were warned that the website was being used in an attempt “to pervert the course of justice”. The DI demanded that the site be taken down for ‘twelve months’. Deciding caution was the better part of valour, Justhost decided to take it down.
In fact all that the FITWATCH site had done was hand out sensible and timely advice to those who caught up in the right wing witch hunt for the brave folks who trashed Tory HQ. The Telegraph has run a shop-a-rioter feature and the SUN has named individuals they claim were involved in violence. David Cameron has demanded that the ‘full weight of the law’ be brought against those involved. Given the hammering that the defendants in the Gaza protests (see SchNEWS 710) took, anyone who has the slightest fear that they might get picked up would do well to heed FITWATCH’s advice.
FIT TO BURST
For two days then, cyber-cops stopped a few people from looking at the FITWATCH site. SchNEWS tracked one of the not particularly shadowy figures behind FITWATCH. “It’s been been real success. We’ve reached an audience we’ve never been able to before – They forced us to take the website down – but now we’re in the Guardian, BBC” (even SchNEWS!)
“The advice on the site was almost immediately reprinted on dozens of sites. And in any case the site is now back up under its own steam, with a different host and a secure server. “This pathetic attempt has failed miserably. Within minutes of networking what had happened, people were re-publishing the post anywhere and everywhere. There are now over 100 sites carrying the original post – we haven’t managed to count them all. We have been overwhelmed by the support and solidarity and send massive thanks to everyone who’s offered to help and reposted the information.
“By making vague threats of illegality to a net hosting company the cops were able to bypass such boring democratic details as a court of law. Although the communication was sent by the Met’s e-crime unit, according to FITWATCH the letter originated from one Acting Detective Inspector Will Hodgeson, who works for CO11, the METs public order intelligence unit, who run the notorious FIT teams (see SchNEWS 639). “They’ve acted extra-legally – it’s one thing to take us to court but this was a way of getting around that. It was an obvious attempt to give us a hard time – the usual harassment, bullying and disruption. It was a way of getting to us outside the court system.”
FITWATCH as a practice arose out of the need to confront the chilling effect constant police surveillance was having on activism. Within a year of starting, people adopting the tactics had forced police cameramen away to the fringes of our gatherings.
This was all instrumental in focussing public and media attention on police interaction with demonstrators. But by publishing the names, numbers and photographs of the country’s political police, its no surprise that FITWATCH have made enemies amongst the boys in blue.
Our interviewee said, “This isn’t the first time that the FITWATCH blog has come up. The cops think they have a pretty good idea who’s behind it. The blog has twice been introduced as evidence in Obstruct Police court cases to do with actions against police surveillance, but it has been ruled inadmissible. Certainly people have been asked about it in interviews. They’ve been thinking about what to do about it for a while”.
Indymedia on Fitwatch website suspended for “attempting to pervert the course of justice” | Police Fitwatch Blog Censorship Attempt Laughed Off By Internet | “We’re Back” – http://www.fitwatch.org.uk back online | The email that closed the fitwatch site | Last Fitwatch post before the site was suspended | FW Press Release:Police shut down activist website | http://fitwatch.org.uk has been suspended | Fitwatch website suspended for “attempting to pervert the course of justice” | FITWATCH SUSPENDED: Show Solidarity & Make Sure The Students Are Well Advised