PROTESTERS AT A WEEKEND of action outside the Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ) complex, the UK government's not-so-secret listening post, have shown their disdain for the cistern, sorry, system by drinking their own pee.
After a slow start on Friday with less than a dozen protesters reported, the scale of events continued to be much smaller than predicted, with some reports saying there were under 100 attendees, rather than the 9,000-odd predicted. This was despite a huge police presence backed by a number of forces from around the country.
So small was the number that the police declined a request for a Portaloo as it required over 500 people to be attending.
Ever resourceful, a group of protesters offered a child's potty filled with urine from the collective to police officers, requesting that they take it into GCHQ with one, Mitch Anthony explaining, "This is a dirty protest against the government taking the piss. So now we're giving the piss back."
After the officers politely declined the potty, the activists agreed to take it back, before passing it around and drinking from it.
The protests are in support of civil liberties groups that are mounting a legal challenge against mass surveillance of the general population.
Groups including Amnesty International, Privacy International and Liberty are protesting the implementation of the government's Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) Act, which was rushed through Parliament before the summer recess.
Protesters will also be questioning the Tempora fibre-tapping programme carried out by GCHQ, which the DRIP Act legitimatises without naming it directly. When asked for comment on the number of surveillance targets, lawyers for GCHQ said that "this would be an infinite list which we couldn't manage".
Liberty leader Shami Chakrabarti said on the organisation's blog, "DRIP would allow the government to expand its interception empire by embroiling private firms both at home and abroad in the Tempora snooping programmes of tomorrow, and forcing overseas companies to build interception capabilities into their products and infrastructure."
Tempora is the United Kingdom's answer to the US PRISM system. It too was leaked by Edward Snowden to The Guardian newspaper. Tempora allegedly collects even more metadata than the US National Security Agency (NSA), with which GCHQ pools the information.
Snowden told the newspaper, "It's not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight, they [GCHQ] are worse than the US."
Whether Chakrabarti and other privacy bigwigs attended the GCHQ weekend festivities, and took part in the urine sipping is unknown. Perhaps Snowden downed a shot of his own over in Russia to show his support.
Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham, told the Gloucestershire Echo, “It is part of the long tradition of political protests in Cheltenham but you have to say it was one of the smaller ones.”
Still, at least they brought their own drinks. µ