This past Saturday, reports the BBC, more than 2000 photographers protested the indiscriminate harassment of innocent photographers under Britain's anti-terrorism laws. The protest took place in London's Trafalgar Square.
Britain's law allows police to stop and search individuals without any indication of wrongdoing. Despite increasing calls for moderation—most recently from the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that Britain's law is indiscriminate—the law is often used as an excuse to hassle and persecute photographers.
TOP is firmly in sympathy with the demonstrators. The act of photographing is by itself an extremely poor indicator of possible malign intent. There are plenty of ways for actual terrorists to get photographs of potential targets, either by accessing available existing images or by photographing surreptitiously. The act of photographing openly with plainly visible equipment most probably means a person is less likely than the average citizen to be a terrorist, not more. Police persecution of photographers, in our opinion, is just a way for police to appear busy without risk to themselves while actually doing nothing to improve public safety. (Case in point. Seems like somebody sends me a link to a similar video once or twice a week.)
(Thanks to Steven House, and Rudy)
Featured Comment by Mark Scheuern: "Security expert Bruce Schneier had an excellent editorial on the topic of photographer-terrorists in The Guardian in 2008."
Mike replies: I agree with you, Mark. That's probably the best commentary on the issue I've read.
Featured Comment by Roger Bradbury: "I was there, and I've probably got a shot of Michael Perrin taking the picture above. It was all good humoured, and after a while I stopped trying to keep out of everyone else's shot. It's just not possible.
"People brought all sorts of cameras. One guy brought a 5x4 camera and I watched him throw in a bit of front tilt to get his shot. He was up above the steps where I stood. Another had a handheld pinhole camera made from a roll film back and lots of black tape and card. A petite woman was carrying a folding Polaroid rangefinder camera with flash bulb gun, and a rollfilm SLR, and a Canon DSLR and a bag for her film and bulbs.
"Everyone was doing their own thing. If we are not careful Britain will become a place where you daren't do that, for fear of bringing yourself to someone's attention.
"Here are just a few other thoughts:
"Robert Roaldi wrote: '...and you have to justify your presence to them....' Quite. This is just one of the ways that 'innocent until proved guilty' is being phased out a bit at a time in the U.K.
"Perhaps the dog's jacket should have read, 'I'm a terrier not a terrorist,' but in Britain now that's close enough for the police to want 'a word.'
"Remember that this event was a mass photo gathering in defence of street photography. It was not a protest, because you need permission from the police to do that."