Picture the scene: Monday 23rd Jan 2008, a protest is being held and despite the turnout not being massive, the press coverage is. The police are everywhere but none of the marchers are being harrased, penned in, photographed, searched or arrested. Almost sounds like we live in a democracy. For once, the Met even overestimated the number of marchers rather than criminally under scoring them! There is one difference to this particular protest however; it is made up almost entirely of policemen, their aim: to demand more pay.
Anyone who has been on a protest in recent years will be familiar with the Forward Intelligence Team (FIT)- police photographers originally set up to gather evidence about football hooligans and the like has turned its eye to photographing anyone who dares disagree with a government policy, photographing nearly everyone who attends protests- legally and peacefully- to gather information.
An anarchist group known as FIT Watch decided to give the police a taste of their own medicine as they exercised the right to protest that they deny to others. Originally they handed out flyers claiming they were from The Met, penning in the police but they soon got found out. Another member of FIT Watch attempted to infiltrate the march but was refused being told it was an “invitation only event, open only to police federation members, their families and friends". This led to the arrest of 2 anarchists originally for breaching the commisoner's regulations, then later in custody it was changed to highway obstruction.
Someone at the front of the march was easily recognised- a thug in a cheap £40 Debenham's style suit? Must be a BNP member. Yep, BNP councillor in Barking and Dagenham and BNP's candidate for Mayor of London '08 Richard Barnbrook was out in full force. To say he's a very confused individual is somewhat an understatement- Barnbrook was previously an artist and made a film called HMS Discovery: A Love Story- which was widely described as gay porn. He's also engaged to Simon Clarke, the 'BNP ballerina' who has a mixed race child from a previous relationship- these 2 parts of Barnbrook's life obviously don't go down well with the rest of his far right supporters and highlight his 'confused' personality, but that's another story altogether.
When the police were questioned about the attendace of the BNP member, the Police Federation's Metin Enver replied “Some of my colleagues saw we had the BNP Mayoral candidate with us. The one thing we want to make clear is we didn't invite him. It wasn't a closed march. He chose to attend by his own accord which is his right in a democracy. It is disappointing if anyone chose to join the march for their own agenda.”
This now leaves an interesting situation. The FIT Watch members who were arrested are challenging the police to take them to court because the police will either than have to admit to lying about the march being an “invitation only event" to the anarchists, or admit to lying about not inviting the BNP member.
We'll have to wait and see what the result is.
In the mean time, FIT Watch will be holding a public meeting on Saturday 8th March, 2pm, at LSE. Their website www.fitwatch.blogspot.com declares: "And, a special invitation to those lovely officers in the Forward Intelligence Team. You are cordially invited to attend this meeting (standing outside, of course), as it will give us an ideal opportunity to start the day with a practical session."