Sukey sucks

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Feb 9 2011 11:30
Sukey sucks

Just got sent this:


Sukey Comments on today’s HMIC Report
9th February 2011, 10.15am

Team Sukey, authors of the online tool that helps keep protesters safe at
demonstrations, is delighted by the continued positive interest in our work
from journalists and activists around the world.

We believe our project is contributing to public order and increasing safety
on the ground during legal protests by reducing tensions on the street to
the point where police do not feel the need to use the highly controversial
technique of kettling.

The publication of the H.M. Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) Public Order
Review today makes it clear that the police are struggling to cope with the
increased volume and frequency of protests. This is not helped by proposed
cuts to their budgets that will see large numbers of officers lose their

Worryingly, the problem identified by the last HMIC report in 2009 that
there is no overarching agreed set of principles on the use of force has
still not been addressed. Moreover the proposed timetable for recommended
extra training for front-line officers means that most will not have been
properly trained for another two years.

Sukey would like to step into that gap and help provide a safe room in which
protesters and the police can meet as equals and work together to enable
peaceful protest by sharing information openly and honestly.

Kettling is having a chilling effect on the democratic right to peaceful
protest and is directly increasing the possibility of violence.

We want to see an end a tactic that in the words of a senior doctor risks
repeating a Hillsborough-type tragedy and which has been condemned by the
chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority's civil liberties panel Victoria

We have been delighted to receive countless messages of support from people
including this heart-warming message that should stand us a reminder to what
we are doing:

"We are planning to be at the 26th March TUC demo. We would like to know how
to avoid trouble and violence, from any quarter. We are both 60+ and there
are health reasons for not being kettled or near violent people. Good luck
with your work "

Our work coincides entirely with the police goal of preserving public order.
It goes without saying that we are addressing concerns that we restrict
criminals from exploiting it.

The best way to prevent trouble on the streets is to restore faith in the
ballot box and to restore faith in the police. We hope by increasing
transparency and accountability for the police and protesters that we are
playing a key role in doing so.


twitter: @sukeyData <>

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Joined: 14-03-06
Feb 9 2011 13:14

i think i've worked most of my rage out already on twitter.

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Joined: 6-11-03
Feb 9 2011 13:33
latentexistence RT @sukeydata: For those who misunderstood today's announcement - please standby. Sukey's squaring up to cops. You'll love it! #sukey

Edit: And said "squaring up"

Joined: 9-02-11
Feb 9 2011 17:34


9th February PR: Open Invitation to Police Chiefs: Prove it.
9th February 2011 1.17pm

Open Invitation to Police Chiefs: Prove it.

Sukey is a tool to keep protesters safe during demonstrations.

Sukey will never provide police with intelligence or information about the identity of protesters. Indeed, no such information is recorded or stored by Sukey. And nor will it ever be.

However since our goal is to keep peaceful protesters safe and freely exercising their democratic right to protest no one could ever think that our goals are at odds with yours in the police and we are happy to work with you insofar as our goals coincide.

Our multi-platform news, communications and logistical support system displays real-time police and protest behaviour, combining validated information sourced directly from protesters combined with feeds from twitter, facebook, SMS, RSS and others. There is a smartphone application and a regular phone version that each allow anyone to volunteer and receive information.

Sukey aims to keep peaceful protesters informed with live and local information that will assist them in avoiding injury, in keeping clear of trouble spots and in avoiding unnecessary detention. The application suite gives maximum relevant live information to those participating in a demonstration so that they can make informed decisions, as well as to those following from home who may be concerned about friends and family.

In operation, Sukey comprises a newsroom application and a set of mobile telephone applications designed to operate together with the objective of keeping demonstrators safe, informed and mobile.

Sukey was released on January 28th 2011 and field tested at the peaceful student protests in London on January 29th. Some say that Sukey is the reason that London was peaceful that day while parallel protests in Manchester and Edinburgh turned ugly.

Sukey was born out of the the violence shown by police to peaceful protesters and the brutal and anti-democratic practice of kettling demonstrators including children under 16 for hours on end in the freezing cold and denying them access to food, water or medical attention, conditions a senior doctor has suggested might lead to a repeat of a Hillsborough-type tragedy. Use of these tactics has also been condemned by the chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority's civil liberties panel Victoria Borwick.

We are particularly concerned that kettling is being used as a tactic to deter protest where better communication would be more effective for all involved.

We are an organisation that supports protesters and enables communication. Part of this support is in helping peaceful protesters in avoiding kettles, and part is to help them to exit from kettles that have formed.

Team Sukey welcomes today’s HMIC report and notes that among its conclusions it points out that police communications with protesters must be improved.

We were happy to take information put into the public domain on twitter by the police at the last protest and to treat it as the equal of information sent from protesters on the ground. We wish to extend an invitation to public order police departments to continue to work with Sukey in this manner.

Sukey are prepared to provide a point of contact for cooperating forces to help in getting their messages out to the protesters where there is a public order interest in doing so. The police will be treated as the equals of protesters and any information they send us will be rated for reliability. If they deliberately send false or misleading information, future messages will no longer be trusted.

To be considered for transmission, messages must conform to a set of agreed guidelines. Notably, they must be informative to protesters and delivered in a non-didactic and non-authoritarian way.

For example the message “Do not stray from the agreed route” would not be acceptable to Team Sukey for retransmission. A message such as “Warning from Police to protesters who have strayed onto The Mall: We will be arresting those still present in 10 minutes” would be considered fit for retransmission.

For protesters and existing Sukey users - it is our intention that messages that come from the police force will be clearly marked as such and you will be able to easily distinguish messages from Sukey and fellow protesters from those of the police. The intention is to improve your safety, to allow the police to warn of impending kettles and to provide them with a means of communicating with peaceful and vulnerable protesters and provide them with directions on how to leave a kettle.

For the police we say - you say kettling is a practice of last resort. Prove it. You say there’s always a way to leave a kettle. Prove it. Our goal is to keep people safe; you say that’s your goal too. Work with us and Prove it.

Mike Harman
Joined: 7-02-06
Feb 10 2011 12:22


So the updated press release doesn't really improve things,, let's take the last bit:

For the police we say - you say kettling is a practice of last resort.

Obviously it's not a last resort, see the 'bait van' incident or any number of others. The police have consistently said this, then consistently done something else. The fact that they've done this is because first they can get away with it, second, while we can't entirely ascertain their motivations down to the letter, they may well think they can put off all but a hard core from protesting in future if they're kept in sub-zero temperatures in the freezing cold without food, water or toilet facilities for long enough, or enough times.

Also there are other tactics like baton charges, horse charges, rubber bullets, tear gas, CS spray, water cannons, straight punching/kicking/trampling, surveillance, that are issues apart from just kettling - some of which have been used on recent demonstrations, some not.

They have absolutely no need to 'prove' anything - because they're the police. The bodies that they're accountable to (the courts, government etc.) are either just different sections of the criminal justice system, or even worse precisely the people who's interests they exist to protect. While sometimes minor concessions and an appearance of 'accountability' are the most effective way of protecting those interests - by taking full confrontation out of the picture, other times they may raise their game and use gas, water cannons and horses (oh they already used horses, chemical fire extinguishers and CS spray in the past few months...), as was suggested by Theresa May.

In this situation, there can be no talk of meeting as equals. Also any movement that can really challenge capital, even if the end result is a few concessions, is precisely opposed to the purpose of the police which is to protect private property and the state.

So the response to the press release, and the followup, was not only people concerned about privacy or actual collusion, but also (at least in my case) astonishment on the general approach to the police as an institution.

Also just seen which says some similar things.

Joined: 9-02-11
Feb 10 2011 14:43


We're all too aware, at a personal level, of the various brutal tactics employed. We're focussing on kettles because (perhaps naively) we think with pressure, public support, high technology and legal challenge, we can win this one.

There's only seven of us in Team Sukey. One of our founders, SamC, got involved when his girlfriend was trampled by a police horse. Another, Tom B, was one of the three who had to go to hospital after he was given a full on blast of met issue CS gas outside Boots the Tax Dodgers a fortnight back.

I'm a dad of SamG, one of the founders - I got active again after witnessing the walking wounded coming back to the Jeremy Bentham room after the December 9th protests. I'd popped down to prepare some hot food for those coming back after the dem. Peaceful, level headed people who I'd met and got to know during the previous few weeks at the UCL occupation - staggering back in with blood dripping from mouths and noses, split lips, baton bruises on their faces and arms. I was horrified. And they were just the ones who had made it back.

Let me be clear. There is no talk of meeting with the police as equals during protests - that's absolutely out of the question - and be assured that I speak for all at Team Sukey when I say this.

The first press release yesterday was worded awfully. We cocked up and Team Sukey are seething over it and over the way it misrepresents everything we stand for. It's our fault - we didn't check the wording carefully before it went out. But the interpretation and spin that some people are putting on it bears absolutely no relation to what we do or what we have ever intended to do.

The second press release describes our proposed terms of engagement with the police. I'm happy with that one - because I took time off of designing SukeyII to word it. Nobody who's read and understood that release could say we're intending to work with the cops as equals.

Because we're not.

What we're saying is if the cops think they have something important to tell protesters, something protesters will really want to know and something that will keep them safe, then they can email us or text us and we'll make a call as to whether or not we broadcast. Call that 'equals'?

Sukey is a great tool for peaceful protesters. Others may well work out how to use it safely and securely for their benefit too. It's not for us to tell them how - they already know.

But what I find bizarre when I read comments like yours above (and you're not alone) is that it's not the cops who are trying to undermine and kill off Sukey. It's the activists.

When I was a teenager 'Solidarity' meant something. Nowadays, it seems, it's a meaningless catch phrase.

Solidarity? My arse.

(Not necessarily representative of Sukey - but a driving force behind it)

Mike Harman
Joined: 7-02-06
Feb 10 2011 16:07
Gaussie wrote:
There's only seven of us in Team Sukey

That's similar to the number of admins on this website, although there's many more people who contribute content regularly.

Gausie wrote:
We're focussing on kettles because (perhaps naively) we think with pressure, public support, high technology and legal challenge, we can win this one.

To be honest I thought the 'cat and mouse' protests on November 30th managed this pretty well. One of the reasons kettling has become such an issue has been the focus on marches through London - whereas a movement that can actually fight austerity is going to require activity more on the level of occupations, strikes, blockades of economically significant areas like train stations and roads etc. There have been some tendencies towards this but it's very limited as yet (although still way beyond anything in the past 15-20 years at least). When I saw the initial Sukey release (not these two, the initial announcement) this was my main reaction to it - that by being so focused on policing and demonstrations in central London there runs the risk of things become self-perpetuating on that level. This was an aspect of so much of the direct action stuff over the past ten years, although I was only briefly involved with that personally, but it became massively focused on policing, the FIT etc. and developed an entire culture around those - one which I found quite alienating and paranoid.

That's not to say the demonstrations weren't important - we'd not be having this discussion unless Millbank had happened. The policing itself was definitely a contributor to radicalisation of the protests in November/December. It's also understandable to focus on the police if you've personally sustained injuries from them. And if we do see a resurgence of street protests around March 26th and onwards then there may or may not be an opportunity for Sukey to show it's usefulness. But, set piece confrontations with the police, even with GPS-enabled anti-kettling apps, are not what is going to halt or revert the cuts (let alone go further than that) - only a real threat to the economy via withdrawal of labour and active disruption is likely to precipitate that.

Gauss wrote:
Nobody who's read and understood that release could say we're intending to work with the cops as equals.

I dunno, this sentence stuck out...

The police will be treated as the equals of protesters and any information they send us will be rated for reliability.

There's also the basic orientation of the press release that it addresses the police. I'm not really interested in talking to the police at all and the only time I do is when they stop me in the street and I don't have a choice (not that frequent an occurrence fortunately but probably once every couple of years for the past twelve in a couple of different countries). So while the tone clearly rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, it's also the assumptions underlying the press release as a whole.

Those assumptions are something that was discussed in some detail around the November 30th and December 9th protests:

The Commune wrote:
Fair-minded people are against “disproportionate”, “provocative”, or “brutal” policing; and presumably in favour of a polite push and shove. This is an appealing message (and it may make sense to accentuate it to the cameras), but is more or less a fiction. Of course, there are incidents here and there where we can say that particular police could have been less brutal. But if the direct action we defend has any content at all, it must mean we supported, and support, concrete attempts to stop the law being passed, up to, including, and beyond the invasion of parliament – and we are in support of people trying as hard as possible to do that. And it is a fiction that the police could have tolerated that, or that preventing it could ever have been done gently. If it could have been, we wouldn’t have really been trying. If the police hadn’t been at parliament square last night, and if they hadn’t been prepared to act brutally, parliament would have been stormed, and legislation to triple top-up fees and abolish EMA would not have been passed. The brutality of the police is not incidental to the nature of the state, it is essential to it.

So you have to pick: the state, and horse charges against children who object to having their pockets robbed; or against the state (which means: against capitalism, for social revolution); and against the police too; brutal or otherwise. Polite fudges are polite – but more or less part of the continuous stream of liquid nonsense which constitutes the news media.


Someone has to say it: mass violence against the police is necessary as part of any social struggle. We wish it wasn’t but it is. The reason is simple: the police defend the state unconditionally, the state defends capital unconditionally, and capital attacks us without remorse – or even a second thought. Reasonable liberals yearn for a compromise: but the state isn’t listening. Neither should protestors.

Or from another UCL Occupation participant: wrote:
The police form part of the armed wing of the state. Their reason for existence is to keep public order. We’re going to need to pretty much destroy public order to even begin to challenge capitalism (I mean, really, the bosses aren’t just going to handover the means of production with a ‘with compliments’ slip, yeah?). This much should be abundantly obvious to anyone who took part in the student protests last year. For us, winning over individual police is a case of persuading them not to be police any more.

Gauss wrote:
But what I find bizarre when I read comments like yours above (and you're not alone) is that it's not the cops who are trying to undermine and kill off Sukey. It's the activists.

When I was a teenager 'Solidarity' meant something. Nowadays, it seems, it's a meaningless catch phrase.

Solidarity? My arse.

What I've seen over the past few weeks in various rows is 'solidarity' used in the same moralistic way as 'sectarianism' to shut down discussion.

If you follow the #solidarity tag on twitter, people we should have apparently have solidarity with:

- The police (facing cuts after all).
- Aaron Porter (union leader so must be 'on our side' even when he's calling for people to be arrested)
- The Labour Party
- Recuperating (and serial fictionalising) journalists

So yes, it has largely become a meaningless catch-phrase, even something bandied about by liberals as a stick to beat over the heads of those who would question the role of anyone who's career depends on opposing working class interests who happens to not be a Tory. Whether directly via repression or managing them into formal and ineffective channels. On the other hand, it's a useful way to pick up conversation threads on twitter and in some ways allows for a lot of cross-fertilisation of news that might not cross paths so easily otherwise.

Steven.'s picture
Joined: 27-06-06
Feb 10 2011 19:27

Mike, I agree with all of that.

And as for "solidarity" your press releases have made frequent reference to the "peaceful protesters". What about those protesters who are not peaceful? What about solidarity with them? Your language is buying into the mass media and government's line on what kind of protest is acceptable. And of course their line is that only peaceful protest is acceptable - because peaceful protest alone will not have any effect.

Joined: 22-11-07
Apr 3 2011 18:51

They appear to be trying to be the cutting edge of soft policing. blimey. very dangerous:

Joined: 16-11-10
Apr 3 2011 21:28

they are refusing to release the source code. to me this is the biggest problem. not because there is some secret trojan sending all data to police, but because it means Team Sukey remain in complete control, and free to collaborate with the police. (otherwise someone would produce a better app that does not collaborate with police).

they also spouted some bollocks about the source code needing to be 'prepared' with notations etc for public release. i say this is bollocks because i am the author of a project that was open source from Day 1, and i happily threw my messy code out into the public domain.

tbh the whole concept is a bit flawed - it can never be police-proof, but as an information tool on where police are etc it still has potential. cops have radios that give them a better knowledge of what is happening and where, but we can do away with this advantage with a Sukey-like tool.

the problem is that Team Sukey are actively against what they and the media call 'the violent minority', and hence seek to use the app against those people.

Mike Harman
Joined: 7-02-06
Apr 4 2011 05:51
Harrison Myers wrote:
they also spouted some bollocks about the source code needing to be 'prepared' with notations etc for public release. i say this is bollocks because i am the author of a project that was open source from Day 1, and i happily threw my messy code out into the public domain.

It is bollocks, but a lot of people delay releasing source code for stupid reasons like this. However if they don't release the code at all this is quite bad - you might not put a back door in it intentionally, but proprietary software is usually full of security holes, open source they tend to be found and fixed a lot faster.

Shorty's picture
Joined: 13-06-05
Dec 12 2013 11:36

Was the source code for this ever released? Or was that never going to happen?