liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
This happened. I take the reports seriously because the people involved are friends of friends, so it's harder for me to just dismiss the stories as internet rumour-mongering. I realize that this personal connection is going to become less and less convincing as the story travels further outwards. I'm also aware that some people assume that any groups acting on behalf of authority, such as the police, always have right on their side; as this is being discussed among my circle, I'm already saying speculation that there's probably a good reason, maybe the activists in question have been sending death threats to people working for Atos or job centres. There often is more than one side to stories like this, and I'm not going to attempt to convince you if you're inclined to skeptical.

For me, I believe the reports. I believe them enough to be quite seriously scared. It's possible, yes, that these people have actually done something criminal which isn't known to my friends. So it's not absolutely clear that they've been hassled simply for criticizing government policy, though that looks like the most likely explanation. But even if they have broken the law, that doesn't offer me any comforting explanation for what looks like deliberate intimidation. The fact that it's apparently coordinated with all the incidents taking place on the same day. The police turning up to activists' houses in large numbers or in the middle of the night, that's what really scares me.

Thing is, I believe strongly that people whose disabilities prevent them from working, or who can't find employers willing to take them on, have the right to food, shelter and security just as much as employed people. I believe that working disabled people should be provided with reasonable subsidies to cover the extra costs associated with being disabled, whether that's having to pay for taxis because our public transport system isn't fit for purpose, or for extra equipment needed to do their jobs, or to pay for assistants or carers if needed. I believe that these benefits should not be made subject to punitive, degrading "assessments" of whether the recipients are really disabled.

If I ask myself whether I'm willing to go to prison for these beliefs, I have to come up with the answer that I'm not. I am basically a coward, and I like my nice comfortable life. So if this trend continues, of people being subjected to deliberate intimidation by the police simply for believing what I believe, I am very likely to end up in a situation where I collaborate with the authorities against disabled people and their supporters. If you ever see me posting online that disabled people are work-shy scroungers whose culture of entitlement is taking away resources from hard-working families, please assume by default that I'm posting under duress.

In any case, regimes that think the solution to disability is stigmatizing and intimidation, with violence not far off, are not often particularly good environments for Jewish people or gay people or people who have fairly transparent online lives which include sometimes criticizing government policies. So I am back to thinking seriously that I need to get out of this country before I am made a collaborator or a victim. I may well be overreacting, and I know that many of you live in countries where civil liberties are already more seriously compromised than what I see here. But. Police showing up in the middle of the night and confiscating phones and computers from dissidents, that's the kind of thing you regret ignoring.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-29 10:04 am (UTC)
lethargic_man: (serious)
From: [personal profile] lethargic_man
Isn't this precisely what the Independent Police Complaints Commission is for?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-29 10:26 am (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
Good point. I don't know how much it would help (we may also need to roll back legislation that criminalising) making making jocular or exaggerated threats, but it's the obvious place to start. We should funnel the suggestion back through Angel.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-29 01:30 pm (UTC)
angelofthenorth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] angelofthenorth
Complaints have been made

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-29 11:06 am (UTC)
mirrorshard: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mirrorshard
I think it's also relevant that it was (at least) three different police forces doing this on the same day, which suggests DWP pressure to crack down on the organisers of nonviolent demonstrations rather than an intelligence-led police operation.

(In addition, it's an intelligence-gathering expedition as well as an intimidation one - all those peoples' contacts are now on police radar too.)

I'm told that there's a strong culture of "how dare you argue with us" at the top there, which does make this sound at least a little less like a conspiracy theory. Like you, I'm scared, not least because I've been personally annoying DWP management myself. I'm not sure they'd have me as a collaborator if I tried, but I know my situation already silences me much more than I'd like, so I do understand the position you find yourself in.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-29 11:31 am (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
I am actively scared of this government, which... is a first for me: I grew up under Labour, and I didn't like a lot of their policies, but I wasn't terrified in the way I am of this lot. There is only so much Julian can do, etc, for all that I trust him :-/

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-29 04:42 pm (UTC)
403: Fractal of nested rainbow curves. (Edges)
From: [personal profile] 403
If I ask myself whether I'm willing to go to prison for these beliefs, I have to come up with the answer that I'm not.

Around this time last year, I'd have loved to be out with Occupy Boston. But I had to consider - if I got myself arrested and they didn't feed us for 8-12h, that could land me in the hospital. I opted not to put myself at risk, but it was and remains very frustrating.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-29 05:16 pm (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
See already, this reaches me and I'm hugely skeptical ... I mean, in the second case, they stopped him because they "smelt" cannabis and then only ramped up the questioning after he provided details. (Which it sounded like he resisted giving). There are two anomalies. First - if they ramped up questioning after knowing who he was then they didn't stop him because they knew who he was. Second - if he resisted giving details then he was immediately suspect, because what innocent person has a problem with telling a policeperson who they are?

So, with one of these cases seeming decidedly odd, both the others smack of bias. Just because I can't immediately identify it doesn't mean it isn't there, since it's the same author in the same post.

Also, I'm pretty certain that the DWP aren't deliberately harassing people. We live in the UK, not in Iraq.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-29 11:35 pm (UTC)
green_knight: (Default)
From: [personal profile] green_knight
what innocent person has a problem with telling a policeperson who they are?

An innocent person who is tired and scared?

I know nothing about the cases, but I do know about acting suspiciously towards the police. I've been there - when I was tired and a little bit scared (because I had not realised I was talking to a police officer - he was a black-clad, burly bloke in a car park at midnight) - I'm sure there's a writeup of the encounter languishing in a police file somewhere.

If someone - anyone - were bursting into my room, I don't think I'd be at my most rational or polite.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-30 05:49 am (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
Sure, but I was referring specifically to story #2 which was outside, where the policeperson was easily identifiable because they'd just stepped out of a marked police car.

Again ... What innocent person is scared of an identified policeperson who is following a well recognised and legal Stop & Search procedure? In that situation you shouldn't think twice before cooperating. It's the law and this is a safe country. Of course things can turn sour if you refuse to cooperate.

The other stories sound worse, but my point is that they are written by the same person in the same bias style. My trust in this country's police force isn't going to be shaken by this version of events.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-30 04:04 pm (UTC)
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
From: [personal profile] wildeabandon
What innocent person is scared of an identified policeperson who is following a well recognised and legal Stop & Search procedure?

People involved in perfectly legal political activism who suspect that the police might be targetting them for such activism?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-30 04:49 pm (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
Is suspecting the police of acting incorrectly sufficient excuse for withholding information from them and thereby breaking the law? Is it then reasonable to publically object to having been treated more harshly after you refused to give your name/address? I don't think so. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Anyhow, I think I've extrapolated far enough out from the few lines of bias text that were referred to in this post. I just don't buy the idea that three separate encounters with the police in one night link together to prove mass conspiracy against law-abiding activists.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-01 07:09 pm (UTC)
shreena: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shreena
I've been thinking about this for a while. I too found the story involving the entering someone's home in the middle of the night the most concerning of all three, partly because of the intentionality of it - they knew who she was, they specifically chose to target her for some reason.

But I have to say, I don't think that I buy that the DWP is somehow involved. Not because I have particularly warm and fuzzy feelings towards the DWP but because I just don't think that's how these things work, y'know? Firstly, the police are not under the direct control of politicians in that way, that's not their set up. Secondly, in particular, they aren't under any direct control of a Department that doesn't manage them in any way whatsoever. Thirdly, I don't believe that the disability campaigns have had anything like enough traction that Ministers would even care about them enough to try to intimidate the activists. Fourthly, I don't think that any politician would want to take anything like that kind of risk (and there is absolutely no way I would buy that a civil servant would have instigated something like this, they just don't have the authority.) Fifthly, the police isn't some kind of single entity - each constabulary will, of course, co-operate with other constabularies but they aren't some kind of single unit, they just aren't in any way organised enough to do this in some kind of co-ordinated fashion.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-01 07:34 pm (UTC)
shreena: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shreena
Of course, any government cares about campaigns against its policies, I didn't meant to suggest otherwise. And, of course, part of defending said policies is about a media response which can seem pretty vicious to those campaigning. I've been on the side of the campaigner and on the side of the civil servant.

But. I honestly don't think the disability campaign is even in the top 50 things on No.10's radar right now - that's not in any way meant to be a judgement on the importance of the campaign, you understand, it's just my view (mostly based on insider info/instinct/antenna, so unhelpful in the sense of not being really easy to discuss). And I think, really, even if it were something about to bring the government down, it's extremely unlikely that the government would go for police intimidation as a tactic, let alone for something not in the top 50 worry list. And I do think that something like this could only be authorised by the PM personally. No-one else really has that kind of authority.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-01 07:37 pm (UTC)
shreena: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shreena
/feeling the weight of civil servant-dom a bit here but, personally speaking, the organised protest stuff you mention is definitely extremely concerning to me.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-02 10:05 am (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
I just don't think that's how these things work

I think that goes right to the heart of the matter. I think the thing is, what I don't think happened is that the prime minister rang up the chief of police and said "what those protesters are doing is perfectly legal, but can you beat them up a bit anyway because I want to intimidate them until they stop causing problems for the government".

But the way I think this sort of thing (whether or not this particular one) does happen is something like:

Someone is fed up of having protesters yelling at him/her every day, and is even a little scared, and naturally feels entitled to quiet life, and goes to the police and says, for god's sake, can't you do something about this? And the police say, peaceful protest is perfectly legal. And they say, it's not VERY peaceful, is it? Those people are intimidating me. And I know some of them are violent, there was [that couple of incidents]. I know peaceful protest is ok, but this is more like a riot. And the police say, well, I don't know, have you received any concrete threats? If so we'd definitely have to act.

And they think and say "well, there was that couple on facebook who said they hoped I fell in a fire and became horribly disfigured". And the police look very grave and say "that sounds very serious, do you think they were just ranting or do you think they were actually threatening violence?" And they think for a moment, and then say, you know, I think they may actually be serious.

And the police say, ok, we'll check it out. Do you have their address? or the address of the ringleaders?

And the next day, there's a briefing, and the chief inspector says, ok, we've got a list of bad eggs who were violent or connected with violence in the recent protests, and you lot are going to go round and check them out and make sure they don't cause any trouble.

And most of the time no-one says, "Hang on, guv, some of these got a bit over the top, but this one's an old quaker lady who spent the last $lots years campaigning for equality of all sorts and determinedly opposing any sort of violent protest. Are you sure she should be on the list?"

I don't know if that happened here, but I think this if the sort of thing that's happened in other cases. That no-one ever came out and said "we want to punish people for protesting so it won't happen", but it can be the net effect of a lot of mostly-reasonable decisions that lead to the police treating people as dangerous when they're not really, with no clear point where anyone's done anything wrong.

And I hope that's confined to scattered isolated incidents, but I don't actually know whether it is.
Edited Date: 2012-11-02 10:06 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-29 06:10 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
Wow, this is really troubling.

Is there an acronym expansion list somewhere so we sympathetic foreigners can follow the discourse?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-29 07:00 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
Oops, good point.

DWP = Department of Work and Pensions, the government department currently responsible for benefits of lots of sorts
DLA = Disability Living Allowance, at a variable rate to anyone with a disability (whether they have a job or not)
WCA = Work and Capability Assessment, an assessment to determine if you're entitled to DLA.
Atos = company WCAs are outsourced to: many people think the way they do it is basically equivalent to "do you look disabled? ok", even if that's not what it's supposed to be.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-29 07:34 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
Thanks! So, Atos does the WCA to determine if the DWP will give someone a DLA?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-29 07:46 pm (UTC)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatam_soferet
I hear Montreal is very nice.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-30 02:11 pm (UTC)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatam_soferet
Hugs. You know that if it's ever necessary, I'll sponsor you for a visa in whichever country I'm in.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-29 11:44 pm (UTC)
green_knight: (Determination)
From: [personal profile] green_knight
I may well be overreacting

And you may not be. I'm sincerely hoping that you are, but _awareness_ goes a long way. And having an exit strategy. I sincerely wish that these were not thoughts anybody ever needed to have, but...

(This cautionary comment brought to you by reading several years' - 1933 to 1942 - worth of a provincial newspaper, where flashing neon signs saying 'RUN' were building up for several years.)

And it's always important to think about ways of strengthening democracy (bringing such stories out into the open is one of those things we can do.)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-30 09:11 am (UTC)
sophiacatherine: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sophiacatherine
I know the campaigning group one of these people belongs to, and I believe that the DWP are now reaching the stage of harassing people. ATOS have already been threatening people for some time, although in that case it was through legal channels rather than via the police.

And complaints by activists against the police rarely get very far.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-30 08:59 pm (UTC)
sophiacatherine: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sophiacatherine
Agreed. Although, I'm not taking these stories at face value either. Looking into evidence for/against them. But it's all part of a worrying trend.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-30 10:08 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] mobbsy
I would note that police harassment of protesters in the UK has happened frequently in the past without a descent into a general oppressive police state; examples include communist sympathisers, CND, striking miners, Poll Tax protests, anti-war activists and environmental protesters.

I'm absolutely not suggesting that such harassment is acceptable, or should be tolerated much less condoned. However, it hasn't resulted in totalitarian oppression, the general population being forced into collaboration or total suppression of a free press and public dissent. Of course, it is valuable to be vigilant against such a shift, but personally I am not concerned that we're anywhere near such things.

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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