[Lowdown] Coordinated Action Thwarts Police Repression

Alfredo Lopez alfredo at mayfirst.org
Wed Nov 17 17:03:22 EST 2010

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Hi all,


We have again provided a protective environment for a website under
attack. This one is www.fitwatch.org.uk, a site which monitors and
publicizes the activities of England's Forward Intelligence Team
program: a program of demonstration and political activity surveillance.

Last week, student protesters in the UK organized a massive
demonstration to protest eduction cuts. 50,000 people marched and dozens
have been arrested. Fitwatch has been reporting on the demonstrations
and offering support to the movement.

On Monday, Nov. 15, 2010, Fitwatch's U.S.-based host, justhost.com,
received an email from England's Police Central e-Crime Unit. The email
requested that justhost take the Fitwatch site off-line because it was
being used for "criminal activity".

Justhost immediately complied: removing the site and blocking Fitwatch
organizers from accessing any of its files. Commercial hosts take sites
down for many reasons but blocking an owner of data from accessing it is
an action that goes beyond the normal and it is a bizarre capitulation
to a police department that has absolutely no authority over this provider.

What exactly did Fitwatch do wrong? It published a story offering
suggestions to protesters who might have been captured in videos or
photos and are worried about being arrested. The suggestions included
tips on getting rid of the clothes you were wearing, seeking legal
counsel, etc.

When the site came down, May First/People Link member Tachanka
intervened. In less than a day, they had restored a backup of the site
to a server hosted with MFPL and had the site live.

But this is wider than the actual story because the implications here
are huge. This takes place during a period of very intense movement
activity in England with very large, militant demonstrations. There is
significant interaction between that movement in the streets and the
UK's large movement of progressive Internet activists. Clearly the
government is reacting to this collaboration in the way these
governments are most familiar with: repression.

Clearly, as these governments need to begin to understand, repression
fails. With the news of the take-down, support for Fitwatch spread
throughout England and expressed itself in many ways. This overwhelming
reaction was accompanied by a meteoric spike in the site visits: we know
because our monitoring system picked that up.

This kind of quick, coordinated response is what we need and what will
be needed from now on as government's attempt to deal with valid,
on-point protest with stupid, bullying tactics.

The world's movement, working through the Internet, is not backing down.
Here are a couple of links:





- -- 
Alfredo Lopez
May First/People Link
Growing Networks to Build a Just World

Chair -- Information Communications and Technology Working Group
United State Social Forum 2010

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