Dylan has written before about the absurd use of anti-terror powers to interfere with the activities of photographers (and I was interviewed on the subject before Christmas) which has led to a number of protests. The Guardian had a further piece on this front over the weekend, and the story there is complete with footage of the (unsurprisingly unimpressive, self-important, overbearing) police behaviour in stopping a law-abiding amateur photographer doing precisely nothing wrong. The page is also adorned with footage from other such photographer-bothering incidents.
We want to trust the police. We all want to feel that the police are on our side, on the side of law-abiding people and against criminals. Increasingly, polling – and the experiences we all have from day to day – show that the public does not feel like that. For my part, I increasingly feel that they pursue a political agenda and persecute normal people in order to meet objectively unimportant targets. Stories like this one reinforce that.
Take a look at the footage and read the account given by the – well, it's not going too far to say the "victims", is it? You can plainly see that the officers had to think for a while before drafting in a more senior officer who came up with the idea of using powers against "antisocial" behaviour to coerce the photographers to give their names (really nothing more than a cheap way around ruling against stop
and search without just cause). When one quite rightly refused, he got to spend eight hours in custody – for no proper reason.
This is why the fight being fought by photographers, whilst important for freedom in and of itself, also has much wider implications for all of us in our relationship with the state. Because what this really adds up to is, "I don't like you, sunshine – you think you can assert your rights and walk away from me without justifying yourself to me – well, you can't."
I don't want to live in a country in which a policeman can stop you in the street and demand "your papers" without due cause.
By Alex Deane