And there were no cameras. Chief Inspector Matt Twist stated that cameras would not be deployed ‘unless they were needed’. He was ‘quite relaxed and happy about the whole thing’, he said. In the event they were never deployed. Despite damage to windows and the invasion of offices, Twist retained his relaxed approach, and police made no attempt to intervene whatsoever. “Sorry, after the G20, we’re not allowed to do anything”, was the blatant mistruth he fed to office workers. But the protesters weren’t complaining, and the many journalists that had turned up for a ‘police mistreat demonstrators’ story went away empty handed, which appeared to be the key objective of the Met’s strategy.
The absence of FIT cameras was undoubtedly down to the fact that deploying camera teams was likely to make them a focus for hostility, and any confrontation with the crowd was something they desperately wanted to avoid. It is true that the protest was taking place in one of the most heavily CCTV’d places in the world, something that made the lack of FIT cameras more bearable for the police. But even in the City, they had always used FIT cameras in the past. CCTV has limitations that hand held, portable, position-able cameras do not. If this isn’t a victory for street-based direct action, I don’t know what is.
Of course, FIT were still present and active. They relied instead on other forms of data gathering, making constant audio recordings and written notes. Twist bragged that he, personally, knew the identity of everyone on the march. And they will have spent long hours trawling around the companies later for their CCTV.
But the crucial fact in all of this was that – for the first time in many years – the police were forced to allow a protest such as this to take place. They were not able to shut it down beforehand, or to prevent people gathering. They could not harass and hassle individuals, they could not intimidate and frighten. They had to stand off and let it happen.
Long may it continue.