Last week, at Inner London Crown Court, three activists were cleared of charges of obstructing the police as they attempted to film and photograph those attending two London NoBorders meetings in south London in June 2008.
The three campaigners were arrested after protesting at the surveillance being carried out by police officers from the Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) – which take photographs or video people at demonstrations and at political meetings.
The court ruled that police surveillance of a public political meeting had not been proved to be lawful and that the police had failed to provide any evidence that they were pursuing a ‘legitimate aim’. During the trial, one witness involved in London NoBorders, who had been followed by police armed with cameras around the area before the meeting, was asked by the prosecution if he did not think that he was ‘exactly the kind of person the state should be watching’. The prosecution also asked the witness, who stated that he felt intimidated by the police presence, ‘Why don’t you stay at home when you are concerned about being filmed?’
Thomas Haberg of London NoBorders commented: ‘The fact that the police could not show that their surveillance was authorised in any way is worrying and shows that the Forward Intelligence Team appears to work outside the law. The purpose of the police presence was clearly to intimidate and keep people from organising around political issues. It also shows that it is important for the future to continue to challenge the Forward Intelligence Team wherever they turn up.’
London NoBorders: Life is too short to be controlled (part 2) – Saturday 30th October
Read an Indymedia article: ‘FIT at londonfete’