Escalation of protest policing: Rubber Bullets on standby

Simon Pountain, who will be in charge of policing protests in London on the 9th of November, has told journalists that officers carrying baton rounds (rubber bullets) will be on standby. From his interview on Sky:

In terms of baton rounds, baton rounds is a valuable tactic for me to be able to have available, should the need arise. At the moment, I have asked for it to be available to me. Those units will be parked away from the area, and they’ll be on standby, should the need arise because the last thing that I want is if any of my staff are coming under sustained attack, as we saw in previous demonstrations, I need the ability to protect them and to make sure that they don’t sustain serious injuries, or even worse. And so I want to have those units available to me so that I can deploy them if necessary and not having to wait for an hour or two hours to get them to me.

The important thing to note here is that the firearms officers carrying baton rounds will be on standby in a van waiting somewhere near to the protest, rather than in their normal headquarters, and that Pountain says that he wants them to be available quickly. This is a significant step up from the normal situation and indicates that he is more likely to use them. Secondly, he said “if any of my staff are coming under sustained attack, as we saw in previous demonstrations, I need the ability to protect them.” That wording is very significant. “As we saw in previous demonstrations” suggests that the police will need no more reaction from the protesters than we have seen before to open fire on the crowd.

On the plus side, he says that no officers will be carrying tasers. Woo.

References

 

Thanks to  @bc_tmh for these links.

Audioboo: @annareporting speaks to Met Police Commander Simon Pountain ahead of Wednesday’s student demo

Metropolitian Police: Baton rounds and public order policing

LBC: Met Police: Baton Rounds Ready for Student Protest

Sky News: Police Will Have Baton Rounds For Protests

Letter to my MP: Objection to stop and search powers and banning marches

I have just written to my MP to object to the use of Section 60 and 60AA stop and search powers and to the banning of protest marches by the home secretary. If you think that these powers are excessive and dangerous then I urge you to do the same. Remember, if you are ever arrested for protesting, the judge will ask you if you wrote to your MP first. Make sure that you can say that you did.

This is the email that I have sent to my MP.

Dear Peter Luff,

I write to express my extreme concern about the use of section 60 and 60AA stop and search powers across the whole of London, and about the banning of protest marches across five London boroughs for an excessive period of 30 days.

I strongly object to the use of section 60 stop powers granted under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 which enable the police to stop and search anyone across the whole of London. I believe that in being applied to the whole of London they are being applied excessively in a way that was not intended when this legislation was created. In addition I am concerned that the use of these powers can be abused by the police and used to intimidate people and suppress protest. Everyday powers to stop and search people under suspicion are ample for the purposes of detecting crime and public safety and should suffice in all circumstances.

I also object to the use, in any circumstances, of section 60AA Powers requiring the removal of disguises. The forced removal of masks or clothing in order to identify people is excessive and again only used to intimidate and to build up a visual record or protesters, particularly by Forward Intelligence Teams. Should a person be arrested then the police may check their identity. Otherwise, the police are abusing their power by building up this visual record of innocent protesters.

Finally, and most of all, I object to the banning of marches by the home secretary under the Public Order Act 1986. While I am glad that the home secretary recognises the unalienable right to static protest, I believe it to be a severe violation of rights to ban protest marches. Most of all I object to the fact that this ban is 30 days in length and applies to all marches. I believe this to be a massive abuse of power by the home secretary and a gross violation of our rights in a democracy.

I dislike the EDL intensely but their right to protest must not be stopped. Should they be violent or commit some other crime then by all means have them arrested, but in suppressing political messages the government and the police have crossed a line.

Yours sincerely,

Latentexistence

And then a step to the right

If there’s one thing riots are good for, it is allowing politicians to introduce more authoritarian and right-wing measures as a knee-jerk response.  After a disaster of any kind it seems that a large section of the general public call for extreme measures in response. Calls to lock people up without trial, shoot them, deport them, and now to take away any state benefits and evict them from social housing. Today the government e-petition site announced “The e-petition entitled “Convicted London rioters should loose all benefits” has now passed the threshold of 100,000 signatures and has been passed to the Backbench Business Committee to consider for debate. It will continue to be available for signature once the site is re-opened.

Many politicians seem no different in their response. In fact any shocking emergency situation provides them with an opportunity to pass harsher laws. Examples include the USA PATRIOT act, brought in in the aftermath of 9/11, which gave US authorities extensive powers of search and surveillance as well as allowing easy detention and deportation of immigrants. Here in the UK we had the crackdown on gun ownership after the Dunblane massacre, and the extension of pre-charge detention to 28 days following the London 7/7 bombings. Then there are ID cards and the national identity register, and control orders which keep people under house arrest for years when there is not enough evidence to prosecute them in court.

In the last ten years the Labour government was responsible for introducing many authoritarian laws and eroding our civil liberties by quite a large amount. The Conservatives have largely been against many of these laws and for the protection of civil liberties. In June David Cameron said “The right hon. and learned Lady should understand that this is all about proportionality and making sure that we have a system that helps protect people while respecting civil liberties.” The Conservatives have professed to be against detention without trial, ID cards, and the over-use of CCTV. In practice, once in government they have not rushed to repeal any laws and there has been little improvement.

Social media

Since the outbreak of widespread rioting and looting in the UK the Blackberry Messaging Service (BBM) and social networks, especially Twitter, have come under fire in the last few days as the primary means of communication for those that are involved. TechCrunch has a good explanation of how these people use BBM which I recommend that you read, and I won’t repeat here. Unfortunately the news media and politicians seem to have seized on this use of modern communications methods and papers like the Daily Mail and The Sun have even blamed Twitter for much of the looting. I was particularly annoyed to see journalists asserting that passing on images and reports from the scenes of the crime amounted to encouraging the crimes. Many of the photographs and tweets to do with the riots where actually from journalists who were there, and while twitter allowed these to be spread a long way in a short time, the same photographs and tweets later formed the backbone of newspaper and television reports! It is almost as though traditional print and television news media are just jealous of the speed of social networks.

Nonetheless, there have been widespread calls among the news media, general public and politicians for BBM and/or twitter to be turned off during riots to deprive the criminals of a means of communicating. Today in parliament several MPs continued these calls and one MP even called for mobile phone masts in the area to be switched off. David Cameron stated that switching off twitter and BBM was the direction that we should be taking.

It should be obvious why this is a bad idea. These networks are not there for organising criminal activity. They are there for communicating. Just like landline telephones and the postal service, they can be used to talk about any activity, good or bad. If they were removed, it would impact on all sorts of things. The riot cleanup movement on twitter would not have got started. It would have an impact on all sorts of business. People rely on those communications networks to stay in contact with family for support and with the emergency services. Frightened people hiding in their homes over shops as they are attacked could be cut off from their only support if social networks were switched off, and from any means of getting help at all should the mobile networks be shut down. Sick and disabled people rely on these communications methods not just for support but for their very sanity.

Politicians should also note the example that they would be following if they did shut down communications. Dictators in Egypt and Libya shut down internet and phone networks to hide the attrocities that they were committing. It didn’t have the desired results, either. The whole world condemned those countries for their actions and the people found other ways to communicate, with all the more drive to remove their governments. China places severe restrictions and censorship on its internet connections. Twitter is frequently used to spread evidence of wrongdoing and brutality by the police, and videos taken and uploaded during protests have been used in investigations into killing by the police. This is not something that we want obstructed, although, of course, it might be something that the police would like stopped.

We already have censorship of internet connections here in the UK. ISPs already block any website on the list provided by the Internet Watch Foundation, sites which they deem to contain child pornography. A recent court case has seen internet providers ordered to block websites that index files available for download, and it is quite likely that the system in place for the IWF list will be used for this too. Our internet connections are already censored, the courts have ordered more sites to be blocked, and now the government are talking about turning off social networks on the whim of the police.  Add the comments made in parliament today and you can see why this tweet seems so believable.

[blackbirdpie id=”101625203901202432″]

This tweet was taken as genuine by many people today. The problem is, it isn’t so far from reality. Don’t be fooled though; the “@skynewsticker” account is actually a spoof account set up to provide humorous insights. The genuine account is @skynewsbreak. And Cameron wouldn’t talk to China about it, because Chinese web censorship is mostly done using American technology.

I have a strong preference for our communications networks not to be shut down, even to help stop criminal behaviour. If the government has to resort to cutting off communications to retain order, that is indicative of deeper problems.  Amnesty International has concerns about this too.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

“Human rights are not an inflexible, blunt instrument designed to prevent the police from protecting people and thwarting crime. However, any decision to block or limit access to social communications must be legal, proportionate and have a legitimate aim.

“It is legitimate, in specific circumstances, to stop people using social media to plan violence and crime. Freedom of expression is not an unlimited right and can be subject to regulation where risks are legitimately perceived.

“But David Cameron must ensure that the fear engendered by the recent riots and the determination to ensure that there is no repeat or escalation of the events of the last week, does not result in a knee-jerk reaction which curtails freedom of expression in a disproportionate way.

“Governments in other countries such as China, Iran, Syria or the United Arab Emirates notoriously inhibit access to communications networks and resources within their countries. Embarking down a road of curtailing free access to the internet and other networks is not a decision the UK authorities should take lightly and it is vital that any censorship does not inhibit legitimate forms of non-violent protest.

“We will await the outcome of the discussions with interest.”

We must keep in mind that once freedoms are given up, it is rare for them to return. At least, not without a revolution. Once it is standard practice to turn off communications for riots it will become accepted practice during legitimate protests too, especially since the public and the government will frequently disagree about what is legitimate protest. We must not let this become acceptable.

Nothing is off the table

“Whatever resources the police need, they will get. Whatever tactics the police feel they need to deploy, they will have legal backing to do so. We will do whatever is necessary to restore law and order onto our streets. Every contingency is being looked at, nothing is off the table. The are already authorised to use baton rounds.” David Cameron, 10/08/2011

Looting and arson are wrong. Rioters must be stopped. BUT. This statement by the prime minister fills me with fear. Handing over permission for “whatever tactics the police feel they need to deploy” is NOT going to end well. Once the police receive new power, they don’t let it go easily.  If Cameron has some specific power in mind for the police, he should say so. I hope that he doesn’t mean what he said above, because a massive transfer of power to a corrupt police force with a penchant for covering up murder is the last thing that we want. And as for baton rounds, or rubber bullets, they are still fired from guns, and they are often lethal. The police are not even supposed to use CS spray unless their lives are threatened, yet they are allowed to fire a gun at someone.

How difficult is it to emigrate to Norway?

The suppression of dissent

Yes, I know I am writing yet more about the police and how much they have done wrong. It’s become something of a theme with me recently, but please, at least look through this article. In the run up to the royal wedding the police made a number of arrests for various different stated reasons. Many of these people were held until the wedding was over and then released without charge.

1) On the morning of the day before the wedding police raided five squats in and around London. They claimed that one of the raids was with a warrant to search for stolen goods. The claimed reasons for the others is not known. These raids were carried out by the Territorial Support Group, (TSG) – known as the riot police to you and me – and not by the usual police. The police claim that these raids were nothing to do with the royal wedding, however the simultaneous raids on five difference groups the day before the wedding is not what you would expect if that were the case. Many people were arrested, and only released after the royal wedding. Some of the squatters were environmental activists and / or anti-cuts, but there were no plans to disrupt the royal wedding. More information at Indymedia.

2) Police arrested a street theatre group who were planning to stage a mock beheading of Prince Andrew in London to mark the royal wedding. They were arrested on the 28th of April as they were about to drive their props in to central London. Their props were seized by the police. Equipment belonging to a Channel 4 film crew was also seized. You can read more on this at the Guardian.

[This post has several embedded videos which will not show up if you are reading on the Kindle]

3) Charlie Vietch from political activist group the Love Police was arrested on allegations of “conspiracy to cause public nuisance in relation to the royal wedding” and on suspicion of aggravated trespass at Fortnum and Mason during the 26th of March protests. He was held for 24 hours, 8 of those without anyone being told his location, and denied a phone call, before being released without charge after the wedding was over. As I understand it, he had no intention of disrupting the wedding.

4) A group of protesters, some in fancy dress, were standing in the park singing “We all live in a fascist regime.” Two or three heavy-built men in hoodies suddenly snatched away one of the protesters without warning and with only one shout of “Police.” People attempting to intervene were threatened and pushed by one of the men before any police identification was shown.

5) A crying teenager was arrested by the police because he was carrying a pen, which they said meant he had the potential to cause criminal damage.

6) A group of people dressed as zombies and intending to have a fun day out in London were arrested for potential breach of the peace and again released without charge later that day.

7) A man who was carrying a sign that read “Democracy not monarchy” was arrested on leaving his train in London. He wasn’t even planning to attend the royal wedding, but a “Not the royal wedding” party elsewhere in London. He was detained until after the wedding and released without charge.

In addition to all of this, many activists that have come into contact with the police in weeks leading up to the royal wedding were banned from City of London until after the wedding. These are not people that have been found guilty of any crime at this point in time.

There has been a variety of different charges thrown around by police in these various arrests. While there has been a mention of searching for stolen goods, most arrests have been for “potential breach of the peace” or for “conspiracy to commit a public nuisance.” It strikes me that these are a catch-all, that can be used whenever a policeman wants to use them. They certainly allow for a person to be arrested for merely thinking about something, and that is not right. We appear to have two problems, namely that people are being arrested for actions that are not illegal using these catch-all terms, and that people are being arrested merely for intending to do these things, and in quite a lot of these examples, the intent has been a figment of the police’s imagination.

I know that there is still no comparison with some countries where political opposition disappears without trace and where protesters are shot, but this is a real threat to our rights and freedoms and it is here and now in our own country. When the police can and do hold people for hours or days because they have been told to prevent some opinions from showing, we have a huge problem. In the video above showing Charlie Veitch’s arrest, the arresting officer asserts again and again that there must be some reason, some evidence in order for the arrest warrant to be issued and for him to be sent to perform the arrest. He is just following orders, in the blind trust that his superior officers have made the right decision based on evidence and due process. But what happens when they have made a decision based on political pressure? Is that pressure even explicit, or was it simply something that senior police felt that they must do? Is this a “Make it happen” scenario where the people at the top don’t bother themselves about how it happens?

I have struggled to write my thoughts on all of this. Quite honestly, it was so depressing going through all of these stories that I can barely handle writing about it.  This is not China. This is not Iran. This is the UK. Where you can be arrested and held without charge, without a lawyer, without a phone call, simply for showing that you do not conform to the desired prototype or that you disagree. Where you can be snatched away by unidentified thugs. Many previous arrests and treatment of protesters by police can only be explained as political policing, and I can see no other explanation of the events mentioned here. I will be writing to my MP to demand an investigation into this and I hope that you will all do the same.

Here is a comment that a friend left on Facebook…

“While I wouldn’t say “there’s nothing wrong with that”, I was quite glad that the TV advert for UK tourism – sorry, the wedding – was beamed around the world without protesters or banners visible on-camera. A one day in 30 year event.”

…and a question: was it worth it? Really?

Peaceful occupation and arrest – An account of #ukuncut on #march26 by @magiczebras

@magiczebrasThis guest post is an account of UK Uncut’s actions on March the 26th by @magiczebras

 

Only a handful of people knew where we were heading on Saturday, I personally had no clue where we were going. Just before 3.30pm I was simply handed a card with a red dot on, a sign that I should follow the red umbrellas several people were holding. Once we arrived in Fortnum & Mason we spread out across the shop, and the vibe was pretty jubilant – I’d had doubts we’d make it and I suspect I wasn’t the only one, if you were in London you’ll know the day was quite crazy.

After about half an hour people started to settle, the majority of us on the ground floor. I talked to people I knew on twitter and sat around talking with my friend, who left at around 5 to get her train. People did drift out but the majority stayed. The police hadn’t asked us to leave and we were peaceful. A few people may have wanted to cause damage but were quickly talked out of it by members of UKuncut, we didn’t want to harm our reputation for being a peaceful protest group. I’m so proud of all my fellow members, we were all exceedingly careful not to break things and received thanks from police officers for tidying around before we left.

At around 6pm it was democratically decided we leave, so we all linked arms tight after being told we could leave peacefully together. We were kettled immediately. There was a lot of confusion, at first we thought they’d let us go in dribs and drabs, then we were told we’d be arrested. I was put onto a coach with 17 others and we drove around London until it was discovered Islington had 15 free cells and Camden had 2. I was first out, requiring medical attention because I had low salts. Everything was taken from me, I was stripped to my underwear, given clothes, put on constant watch because, due to anxiety, I kept absent mindedly clawing my arms and I slept when I got to my cell, still being watched. I was woken at 2am to see my appropriate adult, get my DNA taken and see a doctor (5 hours after I’d started requiring one). He gave me a sleeping pill and got them to feed me.

I slept more, was woken with breakfast which I threw up on my clothes – I didn’t have time to get to the toilet. They couldn’t give me clothes or a blanket so I lay in my underwear and slept more. My mother arrived sometime later, her nerves fraught and I waited to be charged. I convinced myself it wouldn’t happen, they’d let us go, but obviously they didn’t. I was charged with aggravated trespass, made to promise I wouldn’t kill myself, or hold them accountable if I attempted, given my bag back (they retained my mobile, iPod and clothes as evidence) and we left. I’m in court on Monday, 12th April at 9.30am, where I will be tried. Looks like I’ll be joining to Armchair Army for the forseeable future.

Politics, Civil Disobedience, and UK Uncut

A couple of weeks ago I made a big fuss about UK Uncut taking over Vodafone’s World of Difference blogs.  I was very critical of it here on my blog – see UK Uncut triumph over the Vodafone website… but lose my support. (I have actually edited that now to remove a lot of my initial criticism.) For the reasons why I was so critical, have a look at what Tim Hardy said in his response at Beyond Clicktivism in Activism is Serious Business. The main cause of my reaction was the seriousness of the potential offence. Computer crime can have some fairly serious consequences.

But this leads me to an important question: How far can protesters go to make their point? All the famous protests in history, all the ones that made a difference, involved civil disobedience. The American Civil Rights Movement, the Suffragettes, and much that Gandhi achieved involved civil disobedience.

Several issues are raised:

  • How serious is the offence committed for the civil disobedience?
  • What is the threshold of injustice at which civil disobedience becomes justifiable?
  • Should civil disobedience target only unjust laws, or should protesters break other laws to make their point?
  • Can protesters break a law to argue for the imposition of another law?

One of my concerns is the severity of the law breaking. The actions of UK Uncut so far, in occupying shops and banks and refusing to leave, are civil disobedience. The protesters are trespassing once asked to leave by a shop manager. In England, trespass is largely a civil wrong not a criminal offence. To me, that makes it a less serious issue than damage to property or violence against people, which are criminal offences. Although seemingingly trivial, the unauthorised access to Vodafone’s blogs is potentially a breach of the computer misuse act, and therefore a more serious criminal offence. The difference is mainly academic in this case, but what about other more serious law-breaking? How far should it go? I don’t know.

What about deciding when to break the law for a cause? Is there a threshold at which it becomes ethically acceptable to break the law? In 1849 Henry Thoreau said in his essay, Civil Disobedience:

“All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now.
…..
In other words, when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is the fact that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading army.”

Many people are opposed to speed limits; they could argue that their speeding is civil disobedience against speed limit laws. Is that acceptable? Some people do not pay their council tax in protest at bad service in emptying their bins. How about that? Should civil disobedience be restricted to protesting against loss of freedom, or only breaches of human rights?

It seems to me that civil disobedience becomes acceptable once a person has found a group of other people that accept it! The larger the group, the more acceptable, perhaps. Obviously there will always be a group of people opposed to these actions, otherwise it wouldn’t be disobedience. When Rosa Parks refused to give her seat to a white man, you can bet that an awful lot of white people thought she was wrong.

Some would argue that the only laws that should be broken by the protesters should be the laws that they are protesting about. This would rule out occupations, refusing to obey police with a section 14 order, and all sorts of other protest methods. I have come to the conclusion that protesters must break other laws to make their point. Although the right to peaceful protest is enshrined in law, the government and the establishment work very hard to make it meaningless. An example being the current protest method allowed by the police: Arrive, march from A to B along routes checked by the police, getting in no ones way, then go home. All innocuous and quiet and not offensive in the slightest. And completely useless for achieving political aims, even when a million people attend. More is needed, but more may be illegal. And so laws must be broken to get results, or even to get noticed by those responsible for the injustice being protested against.

UK Uncut are arguing for a change in the law to clamp down on tax avoiders. Inherent in this argument is a respect for the law – how can anyone argue for large companies to obey a law on paying tax if they themselves do not respect the law? Civil disobedience can only make sense in this context if the laws broken in protest are carefully selected. Go too far, break the wrong law, and the argument will fall apart and public opinion will turn against the protesters.

And so, I have concluded that UK Uncut must break laws to achieve their aims. Since they are not directly protesting against specific unjust laws which they could break in protest, other laws must be broken instead. I think it is important to consider precisely which laws to break very carefully, or risk losing public support. But after much thought on the subject, and despite my initial reaction to their actions, they still have mine.

Further reading

Civil Disobedience – the history of the concept

Civil Disobedience – an essay written by Henry Thoreau in 1849

The Role of Civil Disobedience in Democracy


Pepper spray used at peaceful protests again

Once again police have used incapacitant spray against peaceful protesters. The police followed two protesters to Kings College in Cambridge following a protest. They were told by porters that they did not have permission to enter, but they did so anyway and proceeded to arrest the two protesters, one of whom was a sixth-form student. During this incident they are reported to have used incapacitant spray against a number of students. Commonly referred to as Pepper Spray, incapacitant spray used by UK police is most likely to be CS spray, although it could also be PAVA or capsicum.

This is an extremely serious matter. CS spray is classified as a prohibited weapon under the Firearms act 1968, and police officers are exempted from this legislation in order to do their jobs. As a such, the use of CS spray is discharge of a weapon and must be fully justified as a last resort to prevent imminent danger of physical harm. Not only that, the official ACPO guidance on incapacitant sprays specifically warns against the use of CS spray in crowd and protest situations. It is not clear in this instance why the spray was used but from watching the video, imminent physical danger seems unlikely. The question must be asked; is the use of CS spray against protesters simply the actions of one or two heavy handed police officers, or does this represent an official step towards more forceful policing?

It is also interesting to note that police are not normally allowed entry to the university without permission. Permission was explicitly and repeatedly denied them, and yet they entered anyway.

NOTE: Unfortunately since I wrote this the video of this event has been marked as private on Youtube. I can only speculate that this is for legal reasons. I will leave it embedded here in the hope that it will be made public again in the future.

More information

Varsity: Chaos on Kings Parade

The Cambridge Student: Police cause outrage as two students arrested inside King’s College

Cambridge Defend Education

Previous articles

More attacks on the right to protest: CS spray

More information about CS spray and UK Uncut

UK Uncut on Newsnight

Do we live in a police state?

 

 

The internet, oppressive regimes, and Tor

Tor logo

A common feature of oppressive regimes is control of information. In Egypt recently the government not only blocked television signals from the likes of Al Jazeera, but they actually resorted to almost completely shutting down the internet across the whole country in an effort to prevent protesters from organising. In China, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and many other places, the governments block access to sites that they consider a threat to either the government or to the moral values of the people. This usually includes social networks like Facebook and Twitter and  news organisations like the BBC and Al Jazeera.

The solution

While a partial connection to the outside world is available, there is a way to get full access – with the Tor project which you can find at www.torproject.org. Tor makes use of a network of volunteers across the world to smuggle information across the borders. The Tor website describes it like this:

“Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location.”

How Tor works
How Tor breaks through the information blockade. Illustration by @Apricotmuffins

Any person in any country can run Tor software on their own computer. When someone in, say, Iran wants to get access to Facebook, Tor sends their request to someones personal computer in the UK or USA, which passes it on to Facebook or perhaps through another couple of computers first. The authorities in Iran will see only a connection between two personal computers and they will not know what web site is accessed, if they notice anything at all. Tor is aimed mostly at web browsing and instant messages as there is not enough bandwidth to allow file sharing and video streaming.

Tor relies on volunteers in “safe” countries to run their software in order to give access to the people in oppressed countries. This is where you can help. It doesn’t take long to download the software, and following the guide you can be helping people get access to subversive information in no time.

What are the drawbacks?

Tor can be used by anyone, to transfer any information. There is no guarantee that people you don’t like will not use Tor. If you run Tor on your own computer, it is likely that information that you disagree with will pass through your computer. This could be of any nature, including information helpful to terrorists, pornography, or other distasteful matters, and it is possible it could be appear to come from your computer, although it will only ever exist in passing and will never show on your computer later. It could have the same legal consequence as allowing others to use your WiFi. This is a drawback, but if we are to ensure freedom of speech then it is something that must be dealt with in ways other than by blocking their connections. In the end this is an ethical question which you must make up your own mind on.

Tor uses some of your bandwidth. If you have a download limit, Tor could use up that limit quite easily. It can also be inconvenient if Tor is using too much of your connection when you want to use it. You can limit the speed (bandwidth) used by Tor so that it does not intrude on your usage, but you cannot set a download limit other than by turning off the relay yourself if too much is downloaded.

It is not illegal to run Tor in most places outside of those oppressed countries. It might, however, break rules set by your employer, internet provider or parents if you use their connection. This may or may not be a reason to change your mind on running Tor, or you might be running Tor to break through restrictions set by those people.

Some people think it is possible that there might be a “backdoor” in the software that would allow US government agencies to track down users of Tor. Tor was originally created for the US Naval Research Laboratory before being sponsored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and then becoming an independent non-profit organisation. Tor is open source, that is, anyone can look at the code behind the software to check for things that shouldn’t be there. I personally think it unlikely that there is a backdoor. The Tor project have this to say about it:

“There is absolutely no backdoor in Tor. Nobody has asked us to put one in, and we know some smart lawyers who say that it’s unlikely that anybody will try to make us add one in our jurisdiction (U.S.). If they do ask us, we will fight them, and (the lawyers say) probably win.”

What about elsewhere?

Tor is not just useful in countries known for oppression, but could also be useful in other places. Australia wants to censor connections against a list of bad websites. In the USA the president is talking about getting an “Internet off switch.” If that is implemented badly, then Tor may get around it. The UK already censors connections through the Internet Watch Foundation. (IWF) Our government want to filter all connections for pornography by default, and is even now attempting to keep records of of all our communications. Not the contents of them, but a record of every phone call made, every email sent, every web page looked at. Using Tor to help those in other countries can have the added advantage of erasing your own records should the government ever decide to take an interest in you.

Useful information

How to install Tor by Latentexistence

How to setup a Tor relay or Tor bridge by AnonyGreen

Measuring Tor and Iran Some information about how much Tor is used in Iran.

Countries that censor the Internet

Top 10 Countries That Censor The Internet

More information about CS spray and UK Uncut

We now have some more information on what happened during the UK Uncut protest on Saturday so this is an update post to gather more of it together. I will save the commentary for now in favour of presenting the data I have gathered.

Accounts from people that were actually there:

We have some comments about the previous behaviour of Officer CW2440 on the 15th of January, from @johnnylil

Officers CW2440 and CW2444 specifically are the ones trying to provoke violence from us. We shall remain peaceful. #ukuncut
On jan 15 at last #ukuncut, I tweeted that officer cw2440 was trying to provoke violence. Now I hear he's hospitalised people with CS spray

i will stress, however, that at the jan 15 #ukuncut police were on the whole polite, respectful and peaceful. just cw2440 spoiling things.

Then some longer comments from @johnnylil, so I have strung them together for clarity.

“re CW2440 on jan 15th. Two protesters were trying to peacefully obstruct the entrance to topshop and police asked them to move as it was private property. Protesters requested to see deeds proving this, explaining that otherwise police could not accuse them of trespassing. CW2440 then pushed one of them violently so he fell into group of passerbys. Him or 2442 then later aggressively manhandled another protester for speaking up about his right. ALL VIOLENCE CAME FROM POLICE.”

Pic of CW2440 outside topshop on jan 15th. Taken moments after he assaulted protestor. #ukuncut http://twitpic.com/3v7ggm

Pic of CW2440 outside topshop on jan 15th. Taken moments afte... on Twitpic

I stress that the above was on the 15th of January, and was the same officer that used CS spray on the 30th. Thanks to @Double_Karma for sending the above tweets to me.

We also have some clarification from the lady whose arrest may have sparked this CS spray incident, left as a comment on F for Philistine.

“This is me this is about. This is not an accurate account of what happened. I was physically pulled up by one or more protesters trying to pull me away from the police, which hurt me. I don’t blame the police. Boots made up a ridiculous charge: I pushed leaflets through an open gap in the door! The police then had to do their job. Why did someone try to pull me away from the police? A ridiculous thing to do, which caused the trouble. I am sorry that anyone was injured trying to defend me, but I was not resisting arrest, and was treated fine by the police, so it was unneccessary and damaging. It was brilliant protest and I’m glad we got loads of coverage though :-)”

She later added:

“However, having now seen that video, I can confirm that the incident of the person being sprayed in that video is after I was pulled by the protester, when I had already been taken to the side alley by the police, and so that incident is not related to me attempted to be taken away from the police.”

For the sake of convenience I have gathered several videos here.

Video from @dawnhfoster

Video from The Guardian

Video from @dawnhfoster

Video from @RoTreg It was sideways, so I have temporarily made a copy in the correct orientation until RoTreg gets a corrected copy online. Here’s the original.

Video from Londoner56789

And a picture showing a delivery of milk by @seb_sears to Ben’s Cookies to replace that given for washing out the CS spray.
Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

— UPDATE —

I have been sent a link to more photographs showing officer CW2440 being quite violent earlier in the demonstration.