As the open letter from climate camp to the Met clearly states, the police do not have a happy record when it comes to climate camp. There have been blanket stop and searches, long periods of containment, and endlessly invasive surveillance. FIT have had a prominent role, and a carte blanche to do what they want, accumulating personal data from stop and search, and obtaining photographic images of everyone attending. At Kingsnorth last year even journalists were hassled, followed and filmed, while FITwatchers were violently arrested and held for four days in prison for taking photos of police officers and asking for their numbers.
This year it will all be different, we are told. The Met will be smiley and chatty, happy to communicate and negotiate with protesters. There’ll be no heads busted or shields shoved in people’s faces, no kettling, no night flights from the helicopter, no verbal abuse from police officers and no unlawful stop and searches.
The Met have promised a a “‘community-style’ policing operation that will limit the use of surveillance units and stop-and-searches wherever possible.” according to the Guardian. Which sounds good. But what exactly does ‘wherever possible’ mean? And how much will surveillance be ‘limited’?
According to the legal team, the police have said that “searches and FIT will not be over used as a tactic but FIT will be present as the Camp forms and people arrive and for the swoop.” Presumably, once everyone has arrived, and they have taken the pics and identified this years prime ‘targets’, the FIT will be content to take a less prominent role anyway. As was documented in the report of policing on Kingsnorth, they have their covert surveillance operatives to take over then anyway.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, perhaps?