This is possibly the easiest form of FITwatching that can be done. It is 100% legal (although you need to read the Legal Information at the bottom of this post), keeps you off a database and, when done en masse, creates a sea of obscured faces that are much harder to identify. This is something everyone should be doing on demonstrations, particularly in London – a city smothered by blanket surveillance.
However, there are a few things we should bear in mind when engaging in this form of FITwatching:
When, Where, Who, Why…
- If travelling alone or with a small group of friends (an ‘affinity group’), move quickly and smoothly round the streets to find the demonstration. It is not advisable to mask up before reaching a crowd, as this draws attention to you. However, you should use your initiative – if the cops are already making moves towards you, you might want to mask up.
- Once there, mask up in a nice spot in the crowd, an enclosed doorway or other public-accessible space; toilets, alleyways etc. away from the obvious glare of the police, journalists, CCTV or other people who might (intentionally or otherwise) be documenting your movements and jeopardising your anonymity.
- If there is civil disobedience, direct action or crowd responses to aggressive policing taking place, then make sure you mask up if you haven’t already. These are crucial moments when intelligence gathering cops of all stripes will be on the prowl and the best moment to disrupt their activities.
- If the FIT shove a camera in your face, it goes without saying you should do whatever you can to obscure it. It is, after all, your legal right to individually refuse FIT photography/filming. If you have a mask, put it on. Ideally, you won’t let it get to this far without masking up, but it’s never too late.
- Just because you aren’t going to do anything unlawful when you leave the house that day, doesn’t mean you don’t need to defend your anonymity. With draconian powers handed to the police on a plate for their arbitrary use, you never know when you might get your collar felt. Better safe than sorry.
DO know the law – common misconceptions allow the police to walk over people’s rights to remain anonymous. Face coverings are always legal to wear. However, if there is a s60aa in place on the day, a police officer may arrest you if you refuse to remove your face covering when asked to. They do not have the power to indiscriminately pull a face covering off your face on the street (but they often do, so always carry a spare!), although if they do arrest you for refusing to take it off they will obviously remove it.
However, courts have ruled that if a face covering constitutes ‘seasonally appropriate attire’– for example, it is a cold, bright October day and you happen to be wearing a scarf and a hood to keep you warm and a baseball cap and sunglasses to keep the sun out of your eyes – then you may have a defence in court if you are arrested.
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