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Police charge anarchist over G20 protest network

Man had Marx poster and Twitter account

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A New York man is out on bail after being arrested for monitoring police movements around the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh and disseminating intelligence to protesters on the ground.

Elliot Madison, 41 - a social worker and self-described anarchist from Queens - was arrested in Pittsburgh during the G20 summit on September 24 after being tracked to a motel.

He and a friend were found in front of maps, computers and emergency frequency radio scanners, allegedly tracking police and sharing the details via SMS and Twitter.

Madison was charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of a communication facility and possession of instruments of crime. The criminal complaint against him alleges he was guilty of "directing others, specifically protesters [at] the G20 summit, in order to avoid apprehension after a lawful order to disperse".

Last Thursday the FBI raided his home, seizing computers and phones, financial records, gas masks, books and, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "posters of a cat and another of Curious George, photographs of Karl Marx and Lenin".

According to the New York Times, Madison said yesterday: "They arrested me for doing the same thing everybody else was doing, which was perfectly legal.

"It was crucial for people to have the information we were sending."

Tin Can Comms Collective, the group Madison belonged to, continued to gather and disseminate intelligence on police movements at G20 after his arrest. His case is now subject to legal arguments. If it reaches trial the defence is likely to focus on the free speech protection afforded by the First Amendment.

Use of mass mobile communications by protesters is nothing new. Twitter was widely used during this summer's G20 protests in London, and prior to the rise of social networking sites, simple mass text messaging was frequently utilised to relay information about authorities and organise gatherings.

At the London G20 - as in Pittsburgh - police intelligence officers were in turn monitoring protesters' communications networks. ®

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