Photographers and supporters are meeting at Walthamstow Central bus station, opposite the tube, for a mass photoshoot at 4.30pm. on Saturday afternoon 25 April. Even if you haven’t got a camera, come and join in!
It’s a fun event to protest about a serious subject: the erosion of civil liberties under the pretext of combating terrorism.
Last week a 69-year-old Austrian tourist and his son were stopped by police community support officers from taking photos of Walthamstow tube and bus station. The tourists say the PCSOs forced them to delete their photos, though police told the Walthamstow Guardian they hadn’t done this. Deleting the photos would, of course, have been destroying evidence of an alleged offence, which the police are not supposed to do.
The visitors were architecture enthusiasts, who wanted to take more interesting photos than the usual tourist pics. What’s wrong with that? There are similar photos on public transport websites and leaflets.
It’s part of a worrying trend towards petty new restrictions. Photography has been particularly threatened, not only by police but by jobsworths citing non-existent safety concerns, and even by otherwise normal people who think a child is at risk of nameless harm if it’s glimpsed in a photo.
And now it’s widening to include other perfectly legal actions. New anti-terror powers are being misused to justify thuggish policing on recent anti-globalisation demonstrations, and preemptive raids on environmental groups.
Jobsworths have always been despised in Britain, and we’re not used to being bossed around unnecessarily. We’ve always had the right to take photos where we liked, within sensible limits, and it’s a freedom we should treasure. We also have the right to demonstrate without the threat of being assaulted, or dangerously confined in small spaces by police, or arrested for ‘conspiring’ to carry out a legal protest.
These rights are upheld by British law and custom. They’re part, in fact, of the western civilisation that terrorists despise. So it’s ironic that they’re threatened by the powers that are meant to be protecting them.
Police are meant to uphold the law, not hassle innocent people because it’s easy. I wouldn’t envy them their job, in the face of rising crime, bureaucracy and meaningless government targets. As a journalist, I’ve watched in dismay as juries swallowed what I knew to be a pack of lies by career criminals. And I long ago stopped thinking that – when teenagers are killing each other on the streets – the police are the real enemy. So I don’t like to see them brought into disrepute by stupid actions like this.
And importantly, while they’re bossing harmless people around, genuine crime is being ignored. The borough’s murder rate has doubled during the past year. A Walthamstow man admitted in court this week that he conspired to firebomb a publisher – that’s what anti-terror laws are meant for.
Because, if anyone thought terrorism was ‘someone else’s problem’, the killing of 52 Londoners and visitors in July 2005 brought it home to us. Those people weren’t killed by accident or mistake, but deliberately by people who wanted to hurt us. It should not be trivialised by misuse of anti-terrorist powers as an excuse for busy-bodying.
See you on Saturday.