Last night I was out trying to take photos of the Geminid meteor shower. It was a bit cloudy as you can see from the above photo which shows precisely no meteors. But as I set out on foot to a nearby field a bit away from the city lights, wrapped up warm with a hat, with a tripod in a case over my shoulder, I was expecting to be stopped at any moment by the police.
Under Section 44, police can stop you if they think that you’re being a bit suspicious – especially in certain areas. And “suspicious” tends to mean taking photographs.
Last week The Independent got an admission from the Association of Chief Police Officers to admit that the powers were being used too much to harrass people innocently taking pictures.
“Officers and community support officers are reminded that we should not be stopping and searching people for taking photos. Unnecessarily restricting photography, whether from the casual tourist or professional, is unacceptable.”
This follows numerous cases of people being stopped and having their details taken and the police insisting that they see your photos.
Anyway – that note should have put an end to it shouldn’t it?
In Saturday’s Guardian, Paul Lewis has penned a piece: “From snapshot to Special Branch: how my camera made me a terror suspect.”
The journalist went out to the Gherkin and took photos and video footage of the building. Security guards called the police who wanted to know who he was and to see his footage. Seemingly, filming the top of the building is fine, but not the lower part where you can see the lobby and its video cameras.
While the journalist stood his ground pretty firmly, the video at The Guardian’s site is well worth a watch even though the police involved clearly realise that he’s probably a journalist. Nonetheless they bandy around Section 44 as they like.
The I Am A Photographer Not A Terrorist site is calling for a mass gathering to defend street photography as a result of this and other incidents.
The whole culture that this is part of, is getting really concerning.