Author Archives: bristoldefendantsolidarity

Still fighting!

This is a statement from a comrade we have been supporting through the courts and persistent police harassment. We admire their determination to carry on resisting despite being targetted and their willingness to speak up and expose the cops for what they are. Their words are a good example of the courage and integrity necessary for fighting to win:

Still fighting!

It was only a “No”. The sentence resonates inside of me. It was only a “No” and they tried to make me pay for telling them where to get off. For fighting them in court. For having the “wrong politics”. For not being white. It was only a “No”, yet for over a year and a half since that day and since my fight to clear my name began, it has felt like forever.At the time, on that cold December evening in 2017 I made it clear that I don’t talk to police. In fact I made it so crystal clear the christmas shoppers bustling past stopped to stare at the two CID officers. One stopped mid sentence and both went red in the face; utterly humiliated in front of the public. You would’ve thought they would’ve taken the hint. You would of thought they would of understood what “Fuck off” meant.
At the time, I was on bail for something I hadn’t done; an alleged “assault” on a cop when I was on an anti fascist counter demonstration against the far right in Bristol. A charge which is a clear case of malicious prosecution by the state.
You see, right now they’re waging a war on us. I’ve always hated to think in terms of “us” and “them” but right now it’s never been so clear. The thin blue line is a burning fuse and that fuse for many of us is getting shorter by the day. Being a political activist of any kind these days makes you a threat to both the state and the status quo. And the status quo is what the police in particular are there to uphold.
Their organization is founded on white supremacy, institutional racism and protection of the rich and ruling classes. If you look back far enough you’ll find that these “civil servants” stem from slave patrols. Back then they were used to suppress the working class and they continue this work today.
I can cast my mind back over the past year and a half plus of harassment and intimidation tactics. I can cast my mind back to that cold night in December and realize that no matter what tactics they use, no matter which cop loving lackeys they enlist to help them with their fascism, the police have always been responsible for everything.
Intent on protecting themselves, holding a grudge and getting revenge, they have targetted me in an unaccountable “operation” with the tacit support and involvement of middle class racists, cheerleaders for the cops and background fascists. They’d call it “surveillance”. I call it bullying and cowardice.
Last year I wrote about what can be best described as police stalking tactics. At the time, Netpol told me that concerningly they had seen instances over the years of activists being targeted by cops with a grudge to bear. In 2019 we hear almost daily of so many instances of police corruption, brutality and targetting of activists, trade unionists, people of colour and disabled protesters to name a few.
I’ve learnt what the true nature of the beast is over the last year and a half of my life. I’ve put up with the area car tails, the harassment from plain clothes officers, the email hacking, the attempted computer cracking and complete invasion of my privacy and personal spaces. I’ve never stood alone but they’ve done their best to isolate me and convince me I’m out of time and options. They’ve targeted me for fighting them but now they know that I won’t give up until they’re beaten. It’s a long road but with comrades beside me I will win.
Reflecting on events of the past year and a half plus of my life is at points difficult. I feel my eyes fill with tears and a lump rise in my throat, but I swallow what hurts so it can’t hurt me anymore. You see they’ve done their best to position me as a trouble maker through antagonistic tactics occasionally led by “concerned citizens” in my community designed to create paranoia and anxiety and to bring out the very worst in me.
They have tried to wear me down through endless police tails, deliberate use of flashing lights and siren bursts as they cruise past me. Plain clothes officers regularly play head games, more so when they think no one is watching.
I know that my enemies aren’t everywhere and aren’t everyone but they have always tried to create that impression. The all seeing eye of authority and the outcast. They want me to think it’s 1984. All of this has been done because of my politics and what appears to be a very deep level of racism the likes of which I would only normally associate with fascism.
Recently, I’ve witnessed and heard accounts locally of how aggressive the police have been towards left wing activists, be they antifascists or Kurdish solidarity protestors. It’s not just here but seemingly everywhere and what’s most troubling is the cosy relationship the police seem to be developing with the far-right.
Fascists have always loved the police and military as infiltrating these professions gives the chance to abuse their authority and target their enemies. Having read how police in the US have assisted fascists in targeting us it comes as no surprise that the far right seem so keen to show support for our local authoritarians. “We’ll give your details to the police”, “Don’t think we won’t find out who you are!” have been threats thrown at us by fascists of late and it seems that the police have been only too happy to help.
Repression and harassment affects us in different ways. My experience of police abuse may not be yours but it doesn’t make it any less real. It doesn’t make my anger and my frustration go away and it doesn’t take away the points where I’ve drunk too much to cope with my feelings wishing I’d say more to my friends when I only ever say too little.
It’s important that we build a culture of support and understanding for those on the sharp end of state abuse. It’s crucial now more than ever because it seems that all of our struggles are intensified under a nationalist government that wages a never ending and vicious class war against us. no one is coming to save us so we have to show the state that our solidarity, strength and determination is unbreakable.
When it comes to myself, I don’t know what the rest of the year holds for me but what I do know is that despite police harassment I continue to keep fighting all my fights and remain as unshakeable now as I was two years ago. I feel quietly confident I’ll put things right and I want to be able to help others who may have been targeted for their political views. I always feel stronger remembering that I’ll never be alone.
My comrades have been there for me throughout. I never betray my friends. There may be more to me than just the next action I’m on but it’s a big part of who I am and it’s where my heart lives. No cowardly bully will ever stop me from doing the right thing. You know it’s funny that after all this time I can still see the cracks in them, but there are no cracks in me.

Legal info for demos

Sunday November 25th. 11am-4pm.

Want to learn to legal observe at demos and / or skill up on relevant legal knowledge for when you are out protesting? Sign up to a training with Activist Court Aid Brigade (ACAB) and Bristol Defendant Solidarity (BDS). Email courtsupport@protonmail.com to get your place. Please pass on to people you trust and bring something vegan to share for lunch.

Resist Surveillance infonight at BASE

This event has been postponed so as not to clash with the delivery worker’s strike: 6-8pm at McDonald’s, Broadmead.

Watch this space for the new date for this session…

 

We will be covering both online and street surveillance.
Whether you be an anti-fascist, hunt sab, Wobbly, full-time anarcho or just someone who wants to fight for social change this event is for you! We’ll be covering:

SOCMINT (social media intelligence ) and OSINT (Open source intelligence ) what they are, why this matters and how to keep things watertight online – personal profiles and group page modding.

Mobile phone security- dos and don’ts best practices and tips.

Demo and group security and threat modelling, with contributions from BDS.

Food and drinks available.

We’re new around these parts so donations are welcome and will be shared with the awesome BASE!

Content powered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
We’d prefer if you don’t take photos and will be happy to provide content on request.

 

“They come at us because we’re strong.” Statement on police harassment and abuse of an antifascist

Life can be a funny thing. There are things that have happened to me in my life that I have told myself not to tell a soul about because they just won’t believe me. But this needs to be told.

Since December 8th 2017 I have had to ask myself time and time again “is it me or is it them?” “Is this happening to me?”, which usually means checking myself and reminding myself that going out and being involved with “this sort of thing” (in my case anti fascism) is going to draw a little attention from the state. Part and parcel right? Rough with the smooth?

Personally, I think too many of us take police abuses of power and outright Orwellian surveillance tactics as a given. I can’t help but wonder how many people have had similar experiences to what I’ve gone through and just not said anything.

I’ve been an antifascist for a few years now and have supported actions locally and around the UK with a lot of spirit, heart and out and out determination. I don’t think that’s ever likely to change.

If you’re someone who moves in the same sort of circles as I do  you’ll know that Avon and Somerset in particular have never had any love for anyone they deem to be part of the anarchist movement. They have never had any love for people of colour either. I fall into both of those demographics.

I was arrested in September last year in Bristol on a counter demo against the fascist front group “Gays against Sharia”, along with another 4 counter protestors who were charged with “assault PC” and “obstruction.” It was my second arrest in the city, the first being on an illegal squat eviction where again I was charged with “assault” on the say so of lying bailiffs. That case was later dropped. The cops told me I “looked like a gangster” that day. That’s a new one on me but in hindsight it speaks volumes.

Unfortunately for me (and being honest it’s currently adding more fuel to the fire) the second time around I was found guilty of assault PC. Initially 3 of us were on trial but the other’s charges were dropped. I’ve never been an angel having been in and out of trouble with the law when I was younger but this was the first time I’d been charged and convicted with something I knew that I hadn’t done.

In fact, I’d spent well over 12 years with no arrests or contact with the police at all. This doesn’t mean I can’t be a free thinker and want a better world. And it doesn’t mean I can’t take a stand against injustice. When it comes to neo nazis and assorted racists in particular, you should absolutely be “anti” that.

I’m currently fighting to get my conviction overturned. I think that is one of the reasons that I’ve started to get so much attention, harassment and outright bullying which could easily be deemed as stalking from the police.

Over the past 6 months or so this has taken varying forms including social media monitoring and hacking, attempts to follow me home at night, undercover officers following me into pubs, seemingly constant monitoring by plain clothes officers around my local area with the support of area cars and vans. This has even extended to Bristol city centre with targeted blaring sirens and use of full beam headlights in broad day light.

It seems that certain elements of the local community have also been involved with tails, garbled shouted abuse and aggressive horn beeps (also used by undercover officers) designed to intimidate me. At times I’ve reacted, never with force but out of sheer frustration  by shouting back.

When it comes to local engagement I put this mainly down to good old fashioned British racism. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was far right involvement too. The state and fascists often work hand in hand and it’s no secret about the level of bigotry and general racism within the force.

I live close to the melting pot of culture that is Easton but my current home is primarily white working to middle class. Most people who live here are friendly but the few wronguns do rear their heads from time to time. Luckily, I have a lot of friends and know I am never alone.

Having researched some of this and avoiding paranoia as much as possible, I discovered that “police stalking” tactics have long been used off the record in the UK and beyond. All of the above are intimidation tactics and nothing more. I class it as authoritarian bullying.

It all really started on December the 8th 2017 (my birthday ). I was in the city centre. As well as being on bail I was pursuing a claim against the police for wrongful arrest on the squat eviction I mentioned earlier.

Living some way away from most of my friends, I think, made it easier for me to be targeted by the CID officers I now know as part of a special investigations unit (Operation Rhone) tasked with harassment or “investigation” of activists classed as “anarchists”. This unit was headed by Andy Bevan and led by officers such as Matt Ford  with a reputation for harassment of activists.

In fact, it was Matt Ford and his colleague who approached me that day in December 2017. I had just walked past a Palestinian demo in town where I’d said hello to demonstrators to show some solidarity for a good cause. It was near St Nick’s market that the first plain clothes officer attempted contact; “Alright! Long time no see!” he smiled at me, looking like an average Christmas shopper.

I smiled back  unsure of who he was, replying “Alright? Where do I know you from?” The cop’s face changed quite quickly, “And where do I know YOU from?” You could sense his hostility. The change in manner was quickly followed with “I’m a policeman!”. Within a second, Matt Ford appeared and with dramatic effect added “And so am I!”

At this point a little unnerved but pretty pissed off, I said “I don’t talk to police mate! No comment.” The first officer tried to engage with me again and it was at that point I walked away, answering “No comment! Just fuck off!” I walked off quickly and was pleased if not a little surprised to see that they didn’t follow.

My solicitors advised me to be mindful that the cops were watching me. Fast forward to now, I’ve been told by Netpol and other comrades that sometimes the state and its minions like to apply pressure on people like me. I think they were trying to get me to be an informer. The apparent vendetta against me over the past 6 months or so may not just be fuelled by me taking a stand and fighting back against unjust convictions but also by refusing to play their game. Here’s the thing.

I will never play the game of scum like them.This is why I began to record my experiences of surveillance in a diary that I am currently still updating. I do my best to keep the emotions out and record the facts. There is currently over 6 months of information including dates, people, vehicle registrations and everything I need to prove what has been happening to me. I have many photos too.

When I moved house I thought it all might get better, but sadly things didn’t stop. They only became worse. A few months back I put in a subject access / freedom of information request to Avon and Somerset police. I still currently don’t know the level of monitoring of my mobile phone despite asking for this info. Either way, I am sure it is one way they have been tracking my movements.

There was no information given on surveillance operations or technology used against me but instead we’re currently in hiatus with the usual “Neither confirm nor deny” response. Having checked the police website there doesn’t seem to be anything major happening in my local area to warrant the amount of times I have been tailed by vehicles or undercover officers.

Regardless of how I feel about the cops I accept that under this current system they are there, although the more they harass me the less inclined I feel to recognize their authority. I have never trusted them and I am never going to. They routinely abuse their power, serve the rich, victimise the poor and target people of colour. I can never respect people like that.

Since we began my appeal process against an unjust conviction, surveillance quickly escalated into harassment and out and out stalking by Avon and Somerset police. It also seems that when travelling to London with my job I have found myself tailed from one area to another.

In the build up to my appeal these intimidation tactics escalated and I feel ultimately the goal was to force me to drop the appeal and any further legal action or at the very least unnerve me enough to mess up in court.

Speaking as an antifascist what has happened to me over the past 6 months has been done to give the impression of an all seeing, all knowing Orwellian eye of authority that has its minions where ever I go. At it’s very core it’s authoritarian and fascist.

Just recently a comrade suggested considering the wider implications of what has happened to me and how it affects not just myself but all of us. The saying an injury to one is an injury to all is something that rings true, and I’ve learnt that I haven’t been the first activist in Bristol to be targeted and will no doubt not be the last.

What is clear, is that there is a deep -rooted stench of authoritarianism and fascism within the police force that needs to be challenged as well as the police as an authority themselves.

The fact that some officers feel that they are able to arrange “extra judicial punishment” without accountability and ‘off the record’ speaks volumes about the level of corruption within the police force today. Regardless of how you feel about the police it becomes apparent when assessing a situation such as this that people who seem to think that they can engage in a  vendetta against individuals or movements should never have been given the reins of power or authority in the first place.

When considering the treatment of people of colour by the police the situation becomes even more concerning when considering the actions of the state and it’s targeting of activists. For some in uniform being a “good citizen” means being white.

To these people we are always the enemy and a problem to be addressed rather than a member of society that should be respected. When we’re considered to be a political dissident, activist or anyone the status quo considers a threat our struggles become intensified.

What has been happening to myself in comparison to what happens to others on a daily, monthly and yearly basis is a small drop in the ocean but has been enough to raise alarm bells within my circles of friends and comrades.

My experiences of the police at their very worst will differ greatly from the next person but with solidarity and mutual aid we can support each other spread the word and work together to expose those who should never have been given the tools or the power to target and harass people for their political beliefs and desire to do the right thing.

It is an invasion and abuse of our privacy, of our civil rights and our liberty and our freedom to be ourselves. Not every person who encounters people who bend the law to suit their collective will are going to want to speak out. Not every person will want to take a stand but the more we do the more empowering it is for them and a reminder that they will never be alone.

The state will always look for ways to disrupt us in our fights against various injustices. They apply pressure to break us and to drive us away from the movements and circles we move in. Activists can be approached after pressure has been exerted to see if they will grass on their comrades.

The past 6 plus months has showed me the true cowardice of school yard bullies in uniform. It makes me smile to know how afraid they are of people like me. Attempts to drive me away from my friends and comrades have failed. Attempts to disrupt my life have failed. I already see the cracks in them but there are no cracks in me.

I’m more anti surveillance and anti-state than I ever have been and am currently researching how communities have fought back against police surveillance. For me, I will carry on with life as normal. I would like to say I’ll learn to forgive but we never forgive and we never ever forget.

It’s clear to me now that they come at us because we are strong. Thanks to my friends and comrades and family for all the support over the past 6 months. You’ve been there when I’ve needed you most and you are all amazing. I’ll keep fighting the good fight. Here’s to a better world.

 

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BDS fundraiser 09.12.17

Witness callout: Bristol antifascist demo, 10th September

solidarity with arrested antifascists:

Several antifascists are facing trial as a result of participation in the antifascist demonstration in Bristol on 10th September. They need witnesses. If you were witness to any of the police’s actions on that day, particularly surrounding any of the arrests, please get in touch. Having witnesses to support defence cases is very important, and can mean the difference between freedom and prison for a comrade.

Contact us by email at bristoldefendantsolidarity@riseup.net or on 07746741104. We can give advice if needed on making a statement and being a witness.

Court report and thoughts from BDS

Trial report – Direct action against Cardiff arms fair 2017.

A woman from Swansea who took direct action and made hoax calls to try and stop an arms fair in Cardiff was sentenced on 25.10.17 in Cardiff Crown Court. The judge gave her a 12 week suspended sentence for 18 months and she was ordered to pay £2000 costs and £115 victim surcharge.

Members of Bristol Defendant Solidarity joined with many other supporters to accompany D through the legal process and were there throughout the trial to show that she was not alone. A defiant demonstration of our solidarity took place on the first day on the steps of the court.

Here’s some of our observations and thoughts.

Firstly, it’s excruciatingly hard to sit through the patronising pronouncements and finger wagging words of a judge whose authority we do not accept or recognise. It’s infuriating that they have the power to decide the punishment we supposedly deserve and to take away our liberty. Everything in the court is designed to make us feel small, powerless, disciplined and fearful of the consequences of our actions.

So it was very inspiring to hear the defendant, D, clearly tell the judge and the jury that she was not sorry for her actions and that she remains committted to direct action against war and the arms industry. Her explanation of how she could not stand by while arms dealers furthered their profits by marketing mass murder was very powerful. She admitted making the calls, but argued that she was acting to prevent a greater crime by aiming to stop the selling of arms used for “mass indiscriminate killing of civilians”. The judge had ruled the previous week that such a defence is not admissible. Evidently they won’t allow their courts to be used as a means to turn the tables and put the arms industry on trial. But D had a good go at it anyway!

Her moving account of witnessing first hand the destruction wreaked by these weapons in Palestine and her motivations for doing all that she can to stop arms sales brought tears to many eyes. She told the court of her experiences driving an ambulance of medical supplies to Gaza after the Israeli bombing.

“I saw kids my grandchildrens’ age being teargassed on a daily basis” she said. “I saw with my own eyes the aftermath of war. Standing in the wreckage of bombed out homes, schools and hospitals brought home to me the utter destruction war wreaks on people’s lives. That strengthened my resolve to do everything in my power to oppose this awful trade.”

The jury, sadly, were apparently unmoved and clearly suffering from a case of too much respect for the law. They dutifully followed the directions of the judge and on day two their “Guilty” verdict was reached in fifteen minutes and was unanimous. A further reminder, as if we needed it, that what’s right and what’s the law are two very different things. Their courts are not places of justice, they are places of law and of punishment.

Forced to wait until the next day for the judge’s deliberations and sentencing (all part of the punishment!), D and her supporters made final preparations for prison. There was a lot of sadness at the prospect of D being locked up away from us all and her family, but also anger at the power being wielded over us and the stress and pain caused by the state’s legal attack on our comrade.

Day three and the tension was unbearable waiting for the judge’s sentencing. The public gallery was packed and there were plenty of raised fists for D as she looked back at us all from the dock, her prison bags packed and ready by her side. The judge took her time but eventually came out with it – a suspended sentence and an order to pay £2000 costs and £115 victim surcharge.

D was not going to prison. There was much elation and an impromptu demo outside the court. Celebrations (and fundraising!) will continue as will our resistance to the Cardiff arms fair, the arms industry and war.

Throughout it all D remained really strong, defiant and absolutely solid. She puts this down to the “amazing support” she received and knowing that she was not alone. We would do well to remember that there are thousands of people on the receiving end of the “justice” system who are not lucky enough to be able to access the solidarity and support offered to D. So many people fighting back in different ways will never gain the sympathy of the judge as seemingly happened in this case.

So when we get a “win” in court (which in this case was not going to prison!) let’s keep an eye on the bigger goal of doing away with the police and court apparatus of repression, the primary weapons of the state against us all.

The Cardiff arms fair:
The Defence Procurement, Research, Technology and Exportability (DPRTE) took place at the Motorpoint arena on 28th March this year. It is an opportunity for the arms industry and government representatives to conduct their murderous “business as usual”, leading to the arming of brutal regimes everywhere with all the latest tools for repression and wars. It was forced to move from Bristol in 2014 as a result of determined demos and actions and activists in Cardiff and beyond are aiming to do the same there. Get involved and help shut them down next year!

Lastly, supporting D, alongside several other comrades with impending trials, has used up a lot of much needed BDS funds. If you can help in any way with fundraising and/or donations for our ongoing solidarity work, please get in touch:
bristoldefendantsolidarity@riseup.net