In 2005, Emily discovered her photo had been added to a “spotter card” used by
FIT had targeted her for a number of years, regularly photographing her at demonstrations and following her after meetings. In an article for the Guardian in 2009, Emily said:
I first became aware of Fit in 2001. Fit officers were taking photographs outside meetings, and then greeting me by name in crowds of thousands of people. Before long, they were at every meeting, every demonstration, calling me by name, making derogatory comments, and following me long after a protest had finished.
During 2002, they arrested me four times in three months, raided my house, seized my personal diaries and tried very hard, but unsuccessfully, to have me remanded.
None of the charges came to court, and eventually I received compensation.
However, I was driven so far over the edge I ended up drinking heavily to the point I broke down and was admitted to hospital, vomiting blood, on a drip and hallucinating cops in the place of paramedics.
It never occurred to me to challenge this policing – even ending up in hospital didn’t make me realise we needed a collective response. And my experiences, although extreme, were by no means isolated. Many people had breakdowns, or simply withdrew from political activity because they couldn’t deal with the levels of police harassment.
In 2007, she was a founding member of FitWatch, which sought to challenge the harassment and intimidation of protesters by the police and oppose police surveillance at demonstrations.
In 2008, she was violently arrested at the Kingsnorth Climate Camp protest in Kent after she and another Fitwatch campaigner tried to photograph police officers who were not showing their badge numbers. Although remanded for four days until after the protest had finished, all charges against Emily were dropped.
In 2010, Emily’s appeal against conviction for blocking police cameras at another protest led to the disclosure of Criminal Intelligence Reports (CRIMINTs) showing that the Metropolitan police had documented the details of speakers, including Jeremy Corbyn, at a legal demonstration against the BBC’s refusal to air the Gaza appeal in January 2009.
Emily has written about the harassment she received and the impact it had on her health for a blog, Random Reflections of a Domestic Extremist.
I know I’m not a violent troublemaker. In simplistic terms, I believe a better world is possible, and that real changes – whether it be women winning the vote, the abolition of the poll tax or the fight against environmental destruction – only occur when people stand together, say no and have a direct impact. Refusing to accept the police’s parameters for protest is not being a bad protester – it is an essential part of effective dissent.