So after the wonderful toppling of Colston’s statue the cops say they are investigating. It may be, in the context of all the popular support for the action, that they won’t actually follow through. But we think it’s definitely best to be prepared and take some simple steps to protect ourselves and each other. So here’s some important advice to help keep people safe and free. Please share widely.
For anyone involved, or worried about being targeted by police:
1. Well done; nice work!
2. Don’t panic. The cops have limited resources and don’t know everything! If the worst comes to the worst you will get solid support and solidarity from Bristol Black Lives Matter, Bristol Defendant Solidarity and a lot of good people on your side and on the right side of history. The authorities want us to feel isolated and afraid – our best defence is each other. Everything below is just a precaution – better safe than sorry!
3. Get rid of clothes (and shoes, bags) you were wearing at the scene, and anything incriminating. If it’s something you really can’t part with permanently, at least stash it somewhere safe that isn’t linked to you for as long as you can. If you’ve already used a phone or computer to send an incriminating message, you should think about stashing or getting rid of that too – deleted data could be recovered.
4. Don’t help them gather info or evidence. Be careful about what you say online, by phone, or even around phones. Sharing stories can be powerful, and having someone to talk to can be important – but it’s best to stick to face-to-face conversations with people you trust, away from phones or computers. Resist the urge to gossip, especially about others’ actions. We certainly don’t recommend handing yourself in, as the police would like you to do!
5. Have these numbers ready to call. If arrested, you don’t need HJA’s number; you can just say you want ‘Hodge Jones & Allen solicitors from London’.
HJA solicitors – 020 7874 8300
Bristol Defendant Solidarity (BDS) – 07510 283424
BDS will support anyone arrested through the legal process …but if you HAVEN’T had any hassle from the police, consider that contacting BDS may, in itself, be a risk. If you decide to do so, you could do it via a phone and SIM that are both not linked to you (pay cash), via a trusted friend, or via an anonymous email account (not linked to your phone, computer or internet connection).
6. If you are contacted by the police for any reason, answer ‘NO COMMENT‘ to all questions. Even in informal conversations, and even if you feel that what you are saying will make them realise they have the wrong person. You have a right to silence, and speaking puts you and others at risk. Get support for your ‘no comment’ by using your right to free legal advice at the police station; but via an experienced protest lawyer like HJA of London rather than the duty solicitor. Read up more on your rights if arrested now.
For everyone else:
1. Don’t help the cops gather info or evidence either! Don’t identify anyone you know in photos or footage, and don’t post new footage online without blurring faces and anything identifable. Even then, consider whether adding more footage is worth the risk; you may miss something. As above, resist the urge to gossip, especially about others’ actions, and keep incriminating stories offline and away from phones and other tech. Encourage others to do the same!
2. Be ready to support. Let’s stick together and be clear that ditching Colston was the best thing that’s happened in ages, and pressure the authorities to drop the investigation. Thanks for having each others backs.