WE ARE ALL FITWATCH: Round one won…

Here’s a nice little message from May First/People Link, the US-based progressive internet network to which the new hosts of the FITwatch blog, Tachanka, belongs. In many ways it is a heartwarming note on which to conclude the recent attempt by the police to silence political dissidents challenging the status quo

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:

http://www.fitwatch.org.uk

http://www.thinq.co.uk/2010/11/17/fitwatch-back-after-met-police-ban/

Abrazos,

Alfredo

– —
Alfredo Lopez
Co-Director
May First/People Link
Growing Networks to Build a Just World
http://mayfirst.org

Chair — Information Communications and Technology Working Group
United State Social Forum 2010
http://ussf2010.org

We are all FITwatch – and this time WE won. Let’s make sure we are ready for the next time they come for US.

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