A four-day protest against GCHQ mass surveillance, organized by the hacktivist collective Anonymous, has begun outside Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters spy base in Cheltenham.
Anonymous has dubbed the protest ‘Operation GCHQ’, and is appealing to UK and international activists to attend the event. While a modest group of fifty to sixty campaigners had gathered outside the UK government’s listening post early on Friday evening, over 9,000 are expected to attend the demonstration this weekend. According to Anonymous UK, Saturday is set to be the main day of protest.
Anonymous is targeting the Cheltenham-based spy base to highlight grave concerns over an unwavering assault on Britons’ privacy rights in an increasing climate of mass surveillance. Privacy rights activists from France, Germany, Sweden and Ireland will attend the protest and join the collective in their call for a surveillance policy shift. Central to campaigners’ demands, is the prioritization of citizens’ right to privacy over the interests of security agencies.
A spokesperson for Anonymous’ media team told RT on Friday UK authorities’ insistence on spying on their own people with no legal justification was a primary motivation for holding the protest. “Innocent activists who have never broken any laws and act within the law are still targets of GCHQ and other spying agencies”, he said.
Although GCHQ attempted to liaise with Anonymous UK in advance of the four-day demonstration, a spokesperson for the collective who calls himself Ajacxuk said the group declined to respond.
“No correspondence is necessary. It’s our democratic right to protest. As long as the protest remains peaceful and respectful of GCHQ property there shouldn’t be a need to justify activists’ motivation to defend their right to privacy”, he said.
Probed on whether Anonymous hacktivists have been targeted by British authorities under UK terrorism legislation, a spokesperson for the group declined to comment but emphasized hacktivists are regularly targeted internationally on these grounds.
Ajacxuk, who runs the hacktivist collective’s radio station, insists Anonymous UK have been unjustly targeted by GCHQ on multiple occasions.“One of our servers was destroyed and our UK radio station has been shut down”, he said on Friday, adding the group’s site was also taken down following the launch of a campaign to feed homeless people throughout Britain.
The Gloucestershire Echo has been sent an anonymous email, which alleges that Gloucestershire police are not allocating enough of its resources to making sure that workers at “the Doughnut” on the A40 are harassed or put in danger.
It added: “Gloucestershire Police have decided they will allow the protesters to take photographs of GCHQ and it’s staff even though this is against the law. To prevent the photography would require far more police officers than Gloucestershire Police wish to use.”
Gloucestershire police Chief Inspector Mark Ravenscroft said: “We have been liaising with organizers to try and ensure they can exercise their right to lawful protest while bearing in mind the impact on the local community.
We know people will have cameras with them and we will be guiding protesters around the legality of taking pictures outside GCHQ as part of our ‘no surprises’ approach.
“While discretion will be used in each case, protesters should be aware that they could be breaking the law if they attempt to take photos of any GCHQ staff.”
*LeakSource will be monitoring the protest and will update this page with more news/live streams when available…
Protesters Ethan McStravick and Gerald Macmillan said Gloucestershire police told them the protest had been cancelled and refused to give directions to GCHQ.
Are GCHQ working with a skeleton staff today? Outlying car park unusually empty. Mutual aid from Devon and Kent police have arrived.