Police target anything that even hints at social change. Street theatre, poetry, art, music, journalism and even education have been described as subversive, as a threat to society. Activists are stopped, harassed, assaulted, photographed, videoed and followed. Their faces are shown at police briefings and carried on spotter cards. Secret databases log their activities, undercover police befriend them. As far back as 2006 Richard Thomas, the then information commissioner, warned that we were “sleepwalking into a surveillance society.”
From 2000 police surveillance became overtly confrontational. We photographers found police Forward Intelligence Teams - the FIT - filming us continually, often just inches from our faces, glaring at us, trying to intimidate us. They followed us as we worked, even when going into a pub for a pee. FIT were on us everywhere. Harassing, obstructing, intimidating and always gathering data on us and on our contacts. We discovered that many of us had been classed as Domestic Extremists and our personal details – even things like the mental health history of family members - were documented on a secret police database.
We are sliding towards a world of pre-emptive policing. Activists are arrested before they even begin a protest. Police are trialling tiny drones to circle silently above us logging our movements. They’ll recognise us from the way we walk, and from our clothes. They’ll know our friends from Facebook and they’ll believe they know our thoughts from their own paranoia. And it all gets logged.