On Saturday 23rd of April and Sunday 24th of April, the Metropolitan Police attempted to harass and intimidate the management of two established and fully licensed venues with intelligence gathering – or ‘fishing’ – exercises. The two venues, both in the Borough of Lambeth in South London, were set to host benefit parties for FITwatch and London Student Solidarity Campaign respectively.
Management at Brixton’s ‘Jamm’ were puzzled to find Police officers arrive on Saturday 23rd April asking questions about a FITwatch benefit that they had branded an ‘illegal rave’. Management soon set them straight, though – reminding them that it was a perfectly legitimate and legal venue. It is hard to know what is more concerning; the Police turning up to a local venue and attempting to intimidate management or the fact that they clearly don’t have even the most rudimentary understanding of the law.
On Sunday 23rd of April, management at ‘The Grosvenor’ in Stockwell were quizzed by Police about an upcoming benefit party on Mayday (Sunday May 1st) as a fundraiser for the London Student Solidarity Campaign – who are a self-organised group of arrestees and defendants from the student demonstrations of late last year. The officers in question also seized posters for the event. Hopefully this blatant attempt at intimidation and harassment will not force the owners of the venue to back down.
It remains unclear exactly where the officers were stationed, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is probably the work of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), whose stated aims include the disruption of funding to groups branded ‘Domestic Extremist’. This begs an answer to the question: is organising legal defence for those arrested on demonstrations now an act of ‘domestic extremism’?
NPOIU has only recently ceased to be a private company made up of officers on secondment and been brought under the wing of the Met’s infamously heavy-handed and institutionally racist Anti-Terror Police. Is this a taste of things to come now Anti-Terror are having their way?
Also, Police in Lambeth have a history of legally dubious disruption of local political organising, when back in 2008 they branded Brixton Food Not Bombs – a free food distribution project – ‘Anti Social Behaviour’ and made arrests when activists refused to move on. One police officer in particular, LX582, seemed to be the driving force behind the clampdown and soon made his way into the ranks of the FIT, seemingly only on a reserve, part time basis. The ‘B’ Team, if you like.
Part of LX582’s reportoire whilst on FIT duties includes the following, stopping and searching and even homophobic abuse of activists. Often falsely invoking s.5 of the Public Order Act 1986 – ‘causing harassment, alarm or distress’ – he isn’t shy to threaten people with wrongful arrest to try and keep them in line. Keep an eye out for this rather porky pig – he has a history of being particularly malicious and disruptive.
However, some Lambeth residents believe that if the Police on Saturday’s incident had been local, they would know that the ‘Jamm’ is a fully legal venue, so there is every possibility they could have been from elsewhere.
Either way, we cannot allow these blatant attempts at disruption to go ahead. People need to keep organising benefit parties and keep getting groups like FITwatch and London Student Solidarity Campaign the funding they need to continue doing what they do.
If you missed the FITwatch party, keep an eye out for the next one or donate to us via the Paypal button on the FITwatch.org.uk mainpage, if you like.
The London Student Solidarity Campaign benefit party is on Sunday, May 1st at ‘The Grosvenor’, Sidney Rd, Stockwell, London SW9 0TP. Live bands include Bastards on Parade, Smokey Bastard and The Lagen plus DJ’s. 8pm till late, £5 entry or by donation if you can prove you were arrested on a student demo.
Correction and clarification: We have been contacted by John Dyson of the Grovesnor to correct a couple of points in the above article. He wanted to make it clear that while his premises were visited by the police, he does not consider that he was in any way intimidated or harassed. Police officers from the local police Safer Neighbourhood Team visited The Grovesnor, and while they were there they asked for, and were given, a couple of posters advertising the event. Mr Dyson tells us that the police are happy for the benefit gig for the Student Solidarity Campaign to go ahead as planned on the 1st May.
We are grateful to Mr Dyson for contacting us directly, and for clarifying what took place.