By Rajesh Thind
Mike (Thanks to David Wilcox)
Featured Comment by Paul Amyes: "Last year I visited the UK and was arrested under suspicion of being a terrorist and paedophile by two police officers. I was taking photos in the street of a popular tourist location in the South East of England. It was for me an incredibly frightening experience. I'm disabled and walk with the aid of a stick. I was approached by two officers who immediately started pushing me around and threatening to 'Tazer' me unless I co-operated. I was made to lie face down in the street while I was handcuffed and searched. My equipment was threatened with confiscation and destruction under the the 'Prevention of Terrorism Act.' It was only when I taken down the station and I asked to speak to the Australian Consulate that things started to change. After three hours of being held in a cell I was told I could go only if I agreed to not take the matter any further. If I wanted to make a complaint I was told that I could be held for a further 72 hours without charges. As I had a plane to catch that night I thought better of the whole situation and agreed not to make a complaint.
"Later in the year I went to China. I was allowed to photograph where and what I liked. I even had police officers and soldiers posing for me at Tiananmen Square. People regard China as a totalitarian police state, but its ironic that I was treated better there than I was in Britain.
"Now having seen that video and the the new posters put out by the Metropolitan Police about photographers it has certainly strengthened my resolve to never return to Britain."
Featured Comment by Rajesh Thind: "Hello all, I'm Rajesh Thind, the filmmaker who made the piece and I'd just like to say that I think it's great that there are so many people engaging so intelligently and thoughtfully here in this forum and others with the whole area of photography and filming in public, and more generally with the idea of defending the besieged principle of public space. The greatest threat that any of us face is the tyranny of the powerful and if we don't speak up for our rights, they tend to get taken away from us...
"And, to be clear, I did nothing to provoke the response in the film and it was genuinely pretty upsetting. I was just simply getting some GVs on the street and, being aware of the law, was making sure not to focus too much on any one person and thereby invade anyone's privacy. I don't like mine being invaded, and I try very hard to respect others'. As you can probably tell though, I'm not one to roll over too easily, but even then, it's rattling to even have to deal with this sort of behaviour from those people who are supposedly entrusted to protect us.
"I'd also like to make it clear that there are occasions when I can understand the police making enquiries about what I might be doing when out filming. For example, I was filming a short documentary for Channel 4 back last summer (2007) and we were travelling up and down the Edgware Road in London in the back of a black cab getting some Jim Jarmusch style shots (Okay, okay, I was aspiring to get some Jarmusch-style shots) of the street from the back of the car. About ten minutes after we'd finished in the cab, as we were walking back down the Edgware Road, two plainclothes policemen—pretty serious, tough looking types I must say, not your average Bobbys on the beat—approached us and asked us what we were doing. They very politely pointed out that we had driven past Paddington Green (High Security) Police Station—where most terrorist and high value suspects are routinely taken within London—at least twice and that we had been seen (most likely by the cameras they have peppering the area around that building) and therefore approached. We told them what we were doing, they took our names and numbers and that was the end of it. They handled it very politely, professionally, and well within the law and I had and have no complaints about how I was treated.
"What's important is a sense of proportion and perspective in my humble opinion. I made this piece because I get the feeling that those attitudes are precisely what we, and particularly those empowered to 'look over us', are well on the way to losing. And once we've done that, we've given up on the very way of life - supposedly marked by freedom, justice and liberty—that we're so vocal in claiming to defend (and, perversely, so violently willing to attempt to export).
"Anyway, thanks for taking notice of the piece: the most useful compliment a documentary filmmaker can get is actually sparking off discussion around the issues at hand."