Legal Defense and Monitoring Group Interview (1997)

LDMG: The function of the Legal Defense and Monitoring Group is to provide protection for demonstrators from police harassment. It came out of the Trafalgar Square Defendant’s Campaign and Poll Tax Prisoners Support Groupings who got together after the Poll Tax Riots and the idea came up of defending crowds against the cops fitting people up. Basically the idea was as a group of experienced activists we got together, made ourselves obvious to the crowd and helped monitor arrests, coordinate defense for those arrested and put lawyers in contact with witnesses. Because we came out of the movement, the Anarchist movement as such, we were in a position to publicise the need for witnesses, for people to link up. So we have have certain rules that come out of various principles of self defense in a riot, like no cameras; we’re basically there to protect people, we’re not there to, if you like, give a fair summary of what the police did and what the crowd did, we’re there to stop the police fitting people up which they generally do in situations like that.
Basically we’re a pro-crowd, pro-demonstration collective. You’ve seen us on the demonstrations, we make ourselves pretty visible, we’ve attended quite a few and the idea is if we see arrests we call them into our central office, and they have a list of lawyers that are good lawyers and on our side, and we get those lawyers into the police stations rather than the police using their lawyers that they prefer, also we get medical staff into the police stations if we have to. There’ve been occasions where we got a doctor or a nurse into the police station and they found a cell covered in blood, and they’ve managed to get the person who’s been beaten up out and into a hospital and it wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t sent this doctor in. So we provide that, at the same time we also produce bust cards for every demonstration with the Legal Defense and Monitoring Group’s office number, so if people do get arrested they have a contact point, on the back of the bust cards we always make the statement, never make a statement, never ever say anything to the cops ever. We think that’s a really important part of self defense of people. We’re conned into thinking the right to silence is finished when it isn’t ; we need to put that out. For instance on saturday’s march we produced 10’000 of these bust cards and distributed them through the whole crowd.
After any demonstration where there are arrests, we have a defendants meeting which we help coordinate witness statements, we put people in contact with each other. Sometimes, like on Saturday (Reclaim The Streets/March for Social Justice 12/13 April), people turn up at our defendants meetings who haven’t had lawyers, they’ve been arrested, they’ve been charged with Section 2 or violent disorder or affray, and they haven’t even got a lawyer yet, which is kinda scary, luckily we can link them up with lawyers who are also involved in the cases. If there are more than one set company of lawyers we put them in contact with each other. And also we can act in court as legal witnesses.
datacide: You’re recognised by the police
LDMG: Yes the police know us
datacide: As something that is legal
LDMG: They don’t recognise us as something legal, they recognise us as a pain in the ass that should be arrested if we get in the way
datacide: But the courts do recognise the stuff that you say
LDMG: Yeah. Anyone can turn up in court. It’s like a police officer using a notebook in court, anyone can do that. You don’t have to be a policeman to pull a notebook out in court, you can be a legal defense monitoring group, you can be Joe Bloggs walking down the street, and say you made these notes at the time, can I refer to them, and the court will recognise that these are accurate notes on the day if you’re under oath. So all the policeman is, is a professional witness because they’re trained, and basically we train our people the same way. So they can look back at their notes, they take notes constantly, they take notes at what police are doing at any set time, whether they’re intimidating the crowd, whether they’re aggravating the crowd, they take notes about where the cameras are, the police cameras, we take notes of any plain clothes officers which are often pointed out to us, we don’t spot them, other people spot them. Because the police can incite people using plain clothes officers. Quite often it’s the cops that start chucking the missiles What we often do is grab a photographer if we know there’s a plain clothes cop around, and get them to photograph them, and get them to send us the films, so we then got a file of photographs of plain clothes officers.
datacide: So it would be cool to have the whole crowd as a legal observers group
LDMG: Yeah, basically, it would be cool, totally. But we get some shit, we got a lot of shit on Saturday from drunken crusties, basically drunk male crusties who accuse us of letting it all happen because they think we can stop the cops hitting people, they think we can stop the cops charging people, they bring us people who have been battered to fuck and say, do something. You know, we’re not medically trained, we are really there to observe and to put people in contact with each other afterwards. We think people, any group of people going to demonstrations should get together with their mates, and make sure somebody in that group who has first aid experience, just one person is all it needs. People should go to demonstrations in a group and act as a group, protect each other
datacide: And different groups should communicate…
Do you need more people to get involved, more volunteers ?
LDMG: Always, yes. The essential thing is they get trained, they come along to meetings, even if they don’t come along to meetings every month, as long as they come along to a couple, get trained up, and then, say there’s a demonstration gonna happen on the 12th, on the 2nd we put out a call to everyone who has been trained to come in for a refresher training, and then we’re ready, it’s literally an hour, not even that.
datacide: So anyone who was there just milling around wishing they had something to do, who would like to get on the case and do something, and who would want to get involved, can.
LDMG: Yeah. We only had 20 people on that demonstration which is crazy. People taking notes, the cops fucking hate it. It’s our defense; it’s like we’re taking it to them now. In the past I understand, cause I wasn’t there, the Legal Defense group were doing a Reclaim The Streets action where the police waited until they (LDMG) withdrew.That’s a mistake they made. They thought, oh it’s all over, everyone’s going home. The cops just waited ‘till they’d gone and then moved in. That’s not to say we’re an amazing group the cops were scared of, but it does mean to say the cops are aware. I don’t think it will be too long before the cops start to try and aim at us, to tell you the truth, I think they might start to try and arrest us in the first place to get us out of the way. We were using two way radios on the day and we were passing information on police activities to other people, but they, I think, thought we were passing it on to the crowd. We take note if the police are putting their chin-straps on, something really simple, if the cops are putting their chin straps up, you know something is coming, and if you know the time a copper put his chin strap on and they claim in court they were being attacked at that point, we can turn around and say, no you weren’t , what you were doing is you were putting all your helmets on. Why were you doing that if there was nothing happening. It’s intimidation tactics. So we were seeing the riot cops getting ready and we were reporting that back to the office. We tend to know where the police are 2 hours before a demonstration starts, where their headquarters is, where they’re running the show from.
datacide: So really you do what everyone should do if they’re clued up.
LDMG: We do need observers, we do need volunteers and it does make a difference.
It’s about building a community – it’s about building our community and protecting ourselves, so we don’t need the fucking cops and look after each other at demonstrations.

If you want to get involved contact
c/o B.M.Haven
0181 533 7116
(2009 note: contact infos for reference only, as far as we know the group has been defunct since 2004)

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