October 26, 2009


There is a bit of a hoo har about todays Guardian front page which has pictures from Police "Spotter cards" of activists who were well known in 2005. This is old news which I can't take too seriously.

These guys used to take pictures of me, which I have been a bit indignant about here on occasion but I am not really too bothered. I can totally justify everything I am doing, it is all within the law and with the intentions of making the world a better more informed place, so if "intelligence" people in uniform who exhibit limited intelligence want to behave like paparazzi, you know, fuck them. I don't care.

I know a couple of the people on this card. They aren't violent or dangerous, they are quite principled though. Someone on facebook was saying they were annoyed about The Guardian printing their photographs. She got this letter back:

We're sorry that you have a concern about our publication of the police spotter card today. We did consider all the issues very carefully before deciding it was the correct thing to do. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and that feedback from people whose faces appeared on the front-page, but this email is adderssed to people who have questioned the decision.

We made it clear that no-one pictured on this card had done anything amiss other than attend demonstrations, which is their right.

It is extremely important to be able to show the general public just what the police are doing by way of stigmatising demonstrators.

These are all pictures of people who have decided to attend public demonstrations, precisely in order to make public their own political views. They are therefore people who have voluntarily gone into the public arena to engage in political action.

Naturally, we don't want anyone to suffer any detriment for their beliefs. We believe that many of the people on that card will be pleased to have now contributed towards exposing and helping stop this kind of police behaviour. They will not primarily have been thinking of themselves, but of the benefit to the causes they believe in.

It is important to bear in mind that no-one personally asked us to black out their faces beforehand, although we circulated our plans to those members of the protest community we could find. A few people claimed that unidentified third parties might object, which is not a basis on which we could proceed.

The other important factor is that the faces on this card have already been published in the media before. They were shown in detailed close-up in the film 'Taking Liberties', which was distributed in cinemas and is available to buy as a DVD. The makers of the film describe the film as a "surprise box office hit". As many will be aware, one of the people on the screen holds up the "spotter card" to the camera and there is a clear view of everybody on it.



Most if not all the people on this card would have been well aware of that.

Some on the card say there was some sort of agreement that we would not publish the "spotter card" unless there was permission from all of you and failing that, we would blur some of the images.

Some background - we have carrying out research for this series since June. A few months ago, there was an idea that we should try to contact all the people on the card and interview them. At that time, the idea was to print some biographies of the individuals on the card to draw out various points - such as - the obviously important issue of how many people had criminal records. As it turned out, seven people on the card called me. It was clear that we were not going to be able speak to all on the card. As the project evolved, we abandoned the idea. During that process, we spoke to people on the card on the understanding that we would not name people if they did not want to be. As it turned out, we did not name anyone on the card, except Mark Thomas who wrote a comment piece about the card - http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/oct/25/doth-i-protest-too-much

It should be clear from the general thrust of the articles that we are looking to highlight the wrong-doing of the police, not the protesters. The publication of the card helps to tell many in the wider public what is actually going on here. Many in the protest community have complained that the mainstream media have ignored what the police have been doing. We hope that you will recognise that the Guardian has in the past year published a series of articles which have helped to expose police wrong-doing. The articles on Ian Tomlinson and the treatment of protesters at Kingsnorth are two examples of these.

We recognise that some of you are upset but we hope that you will have a better understanding of why we published the card.

Rob Evans
Paul Lewis
The Guardian

UPDATE: Hoo-Har here

UPDATE: Suspect "A"


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