Paul Joseph Watson
Monday, October 26, 2009
Police in Britain have defined political activism as “domestic extremism” and are treating people who attend demonstrations as criminals, cataloguing them on multiple national databases as well as tracking their vehicle license plates to enable them to be targeted for stop and search harassment.
People of any political persuasion protesting any cause whatsoever, right or left-wing, are having their details stored on a network of nationwide intelligence databases overseen by three national police units exclusively devoted to spying on those who are even mildly politically active in Britain.
“The hidden apparatus has been constructed to monitor “domestic extremists”, reports the London Guardian. “Detailed information about the political activities of campaigners is being stored on a number of overlapping IT systems, even if they have not committed a crime.”
The police units in control of the system are headed up by the “terrorism and allied matters” committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), illustrating once again that the British government equates peaceful protest with domestic terrorism.
“Vehicles associated with protesters are being tracked via a nationwide system of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras,” reports the Guardian. “One man, who has no criminal record, was stopped more than 25 times in less than three years after a “protest” marker was placed against his car after he attended a small protest against duck and pheasant shooting. ANPR “interceptor teams” are being deployed on roads leading to protests to monitor attendance.”
[efoods]The system, funded to the tune of £9 billion by the taxpayer, also employs spies to infiltrate and inform on protest groups.
The following Orwellian statement is the the government’s response to criticism that the databases contain vast numbers of people who have no criminal record.
“Just because you have no criminal record does not mean that you are not of interest to the police,” said Anton Setchell, national co-ordinator for domestic extremism for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo). “Everyone who has got a criminal record did not have one once.”
In other words, everyone who attends a protest, criminal record or not, is on the database and is regarded as a “domestic extremist” by the government.
Superintendent Steve Pearl, the front man for one of the units within Acpo tasked with surveilling protesters told the Guardian that the system was set up after intense pressure from big business, particularly pharmaceutical giants, as well as banks, who demanded that demonstrators be targeted after a minority of animal rights activists engaged in criminal acts.
As another Guardian report on the story explains, just like their counterparts across the pond, British authorities have rebranded lawful protests as “domestic extremism” and now treat any attempt to further a campaign, change legislation or domestic policy as probable cause for criminal surveillance.
Police are provided with mug shots of protesters, known as “spotter cards,” (see above) enabling them to identify key members of protest groups, despite the fact that these individuals have no criminal records.
As comedian Mark Thomas discusses today in his Guardian piece, despite the fact that he was merely attending an arms fair for the purpose of researching for a book, his mug shot is featured on the “police spotter card,” while companies inside the fair who were openly selling illegal torture devices were completely ignored by the government and the police.
“The very phrase “domestic extremist” defines protesters in the eyes of the police as the problem, the enemy. Spying on entire groups and organisations, and targeting the innocent, undermines not only our rights but the law – frightfully silly of me to drag this into an argument about policing, I know,” writes Thomas.
“Protest is part of the democratic process. It wasn’t the goodwill of politicians that led them to cancel developing countries’ debt, but the protests and campaigning of millions of ordinary people around the world. The political leaders were merely the rubber stamp in the democratic process. Thus any targeting and treatment of demonstrators (at the G20 for example) that creates a “chilling effect” – deterring those who may wish to exercise their right to protest – is profoundly undemocratic.”
This is what spying on and treating protesters as extremists and criminals is all about. The government has created a chilling atmosphere where people are scared to exercise their rights because of the fear they will be targeted by the authorities. This is an end run around freedom as it is just as good as outlawing protest altogether. This is how tyranny throughout history always begins – first the state demonizes protesters as extremists and discourages anyone from joining their ranks through fear and intimidation. Once the number of dissidents has been reduced to a tiny minority, the authorities then have free reign to stamp the boot down and eliminate free speech altogether.
The only way to counter this is to shake off the psychological shackles of intimidation, get past our fear and be more vocal than ever in exercising free speech and our right to protest – because the alternative and what it may entail is nightmarish to even consider. If you care about living in anything like a free society with any modicum of free speech whatsoever, then the message is simple – use it or lose it.