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Act of Terror: arrested for filming police officers - video
April 29, 2013 11:21 AM   Subscribe

When police carried out a routine stop-and-search of her boyfriend on the London Underground, Gemma Atkinson filmed the incident. She was detained, handcuffed and threatened with arrest. She launched a legal battle, which ended with the police settling the case in 2010. With the money from the settlement she funded the production of this animated film, which she says shows how her story and highlights police misuse of counterterrorism powers to restrict photography.

Article in French.

On Facebook under the title Fat Rat Films.
posted by nickyskye (24 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
If a policeman tries stop you from filming them, tell them "under the law you can only stop me filming you if you have reasonable suspicion that I am a terrorist."
So you say this, the policeman stops you filming him, and when you bring him to court he pulls out his notebook and says "when cautioned, the suspect said '...I am a terrorist'".

Seriously, I admire this woman for holding her ground, given that law enforcement power grabs usually rely on such heavy barriers of time, cost, and at least implicit intimidation. And I can't help wondering how much harder and more expensive this battle would have been in the U.S.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:21 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was photographing the Urbis building in Manchester (UK) recently using an SLR camera mounted on a tripod with a remote shutter release. I was doing it at 6am because I wanted minimal foot traffic in the photo. A "Police Community Support Officer" appeared and told me that CCTV operators had identified me as suspicious. I politely answered his questions (a mistake?) and he left. Within 2 minutes a police car arrived with 3 officers who told me repeatedly that I was suspicious and "could be arrested at any time" and (I forget the exact phrase) they repeatedly mentioned anti-terror powers. It was like talking to a recorded message. They didn't actually want any information from me, they just wanted to keep telling me I was in serious danger of arrest and to go away, which would be weird behaviour if they really thought I was a terrorist.

I gave up and left without the photo I was after.

I'm not sure how I could have been /less/ suspicious. I mean I was answering questions, totally conspicuous and physically touching all my equipment at all times.

Nobody I know respects the intelligence or integrity of the police. That's a sad state of affairs, but a rational response this constant background low-level abuse of power and doublespeak.
posted by samworm at 12:27 PM on April 29, 2013 [30 favorites]


If you can't photograph a building you shouldn't be allowed to build one either. Because if a mere photographer is in a position to blow up a building, how much better placed is a construction worker, who could plant a bomb inside a wall where nobody would see it until it was too late?

Really, there is no human activity that isn't basically a cover for terror, terror, terror. We really shouldn't be allowed to exist at all. Thankfully, there are some passionate people out there who'd like to make that happen. I forget what they're called...
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:43 PM on April 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


We should be grateful the state gives employment to those strapping lads who were so broke in school they had to push us down and take our pencil money to buy sweets. Otherwise they'd be stealing purses and robbing liquor stores.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:44 PM on April 29, 2013 [17 favorites]


As always, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has already covered this ground.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:52 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's the ACLU's summary of photographer's rights in the United States. I've never had to face down an armed police officer, but I've had pretty good luck standing my ground with private security. They know they can't stop you photographing from a public place, demonstrating I know my rights and then ignoring them has been sufficient so far.

No idea what the situation is like in the UK though, this video is depressing.
posted by Nelson at 1:41 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


... they just wanted to keep telling me I was in serious danger of arrest and to go away, which would be weird behaviour if they really thought I was a terrorist.

This. And it's a pretty terrifying statement when you think about it. If they really did think you were actually trying to commit a real terrorist attack, you'd be brought down swiftly and without warning. They're not trying to protect national safety. They're trying to use that as an excuse to to bully and harass civilians into silence, to keep the population under their thumb.
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:51 PM on April 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Bleak. Cameras have never been more ubiquitous and yet somehow professional looking equipment continues to take on an ever more sinister aspect. In Canada, knowing your rights is sufficient, but being forced to prove you know them is on the rise and frankly it just gets fucking old. Admittedly my bias as apparently the most suspicious person in Canadian history is showing, but who wants to talk to the cops every time they leave the house?

I can't help but see a connection to the many recent discussions of public photography in general. I'm not saying I don't understand the impulse, but it sucks how much the average person's desire to assert their personality rights legitimizes this totalitarian view of photography. Given the choice between possibly having my photo taken without permission and a world where public photography is strictly regulated, I'll take the former.
posted by Lorin at 1:56 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the things I liked best about the film was its use of humor. There is nothing funny about what happened but the cheeky attitude makes it all the more powerful. The bad guys can handle fisticuffs, anger and lawsuits but they melt away under the glaring light of ridicule.
posted by TDavis at 1:59 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find it important to mention, as well, Photography Is Not A Crime, which talks about this in the US.

There is a general issue in the US at this time with the police - and the FBI and TSA, item about them on the front page of it - trying to connect photography and terrorism, arresting people for recording things in the street from their front porch, and more issues of that nature.
posted by mephron at 2:24 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


In my opinion, nothing has done more harm citizens' collective rights than this pointless, wasteful and never-ending "war on terror." I will never support the trading of hard won civil liberties (speech, press, assembly, privacy, etc.) for some ambiguous concept of "security" -- especially a version defined by authoritarian police organizations and corrupt governments.
posted by nowhere man at 2:27 PM on April 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


They're not trying to protect national safety. They're trying to use that as an excuse to to bully and harass civilians into silence, to keep the population under their thumb.

No, that's far too much credit. The plain truth is that most coppers are just thick as shit jobsworths who are operating on a pure CYA basis, which samworm's case is the perfect example off. They weren't going to get into the hassle of an arrest, but still needed to be doing something, so they just hassled for a bit.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:09 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


With the money from the settlement she funded the production of this animated film

That's the part I think is cool. I don't know whether she pressed her legal case because she felt it was important to make the point, because she needed the validation, because she thought forcing the government to pay might drive the lesson home, etc. But I dig that once she got the money, she turned around and made a constructive public statement with it.

I've never been harassed as a photographer. Once I was shooting architecture at an outdoor shopping mall and a security guard asked me to stop; I asked him why and he said, "Because of terrorism." (Actual quote.) I laughed and he gave a small, embarrassed smile, probably because he was smart enough to know how dumb that sounded but it was the only reason management had given him.

Cameras have never been more ubiquitous and yet somehow professional looking equipment continues to take on an ever more sinister aspect.

Yeah, it's a weird dynamic. Thirty years ago, here in the United States we tended to have strict no-photography policies in a lot of places. Today nobody thinks twice about a crowd of people aiming iPhones anywhere they please, yet it seems like part of the counterbalance is that we look extra closely at somebody holding any kind of actual camera equipment. It doesn't even need to be a camera: Walk into a mall and try shooting a storefront with your iPhone handheld, then try doing the same thing with your phone on a tripod.
posted by cribcage at 3:23 PM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


The plain truth is that most coppers are just thick as shit jobsworths who are operating on a pure CYA basis, which samworm's case is the perfect example off

Except of course they can kill you and get away with it as they have several times in recent years.
posted by srboisvert at 3:24 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I can't help wondering how much harder and more expensive this battle would have been in the U.S.

Well, no closely related case has yet reached the Supreme Court, but in general there are First Amendment protections -- at least for speech intended to reach the public, of which photography has been included by case law. That doesn't mean there aren't issues or instances, but the police in the US are also much more decentralized and there are state legal regimes in addition to federal, with no US analogue to the IPCC.

Anyway, this reminded me that for photography project of my own, I should be carrying around a copy of a PBoR.
posted by dhartung at 4:13 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cameras have never been more ubiquitous and yet somehow professional looking equipment continues to take on an ever more sinister aspect.

Indeed, you'd have to be a spectacularly dumb terrorist to take pictures with a tripod as opposed to a mobile phone. Authorities seem incapable of articulating just why those 8-stop ND-filtered, long-exposure HDR panoramas are better for terrorists planning to blow up totally random shit - or why they wouldn't just search on Flickr for literally thousands of pictures of every major building from every conceivable angle without ever having to leave the house.
posted by smoke at 4:44 PM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]




but i thought the UK was more civilized than brutish america

man, i can't find any solid ground anymore
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:21 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the last 12 months, I had a knucklehead security guard claim I couldn't shoot photos of a hospital building, and then, the day after the Boston bombing, had a cab driver screaming at me that it was against the law to shoot pictures of a Long Island Rail Road train. I wish to God we as a society would regain our courage and stop mindlessly accepting the view that we need to give up all of our rights because the Bush gang did such a good job of frightening so many of us.
posted by etaoin at 8:02 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


She was detained, handcuffed and threatened with arrest.

This post has 19 comments. The post below, about the liberation of the concentration camp Dachau, has 15 comments.
posted by iviken at 4:37 AM on April 30, 2013


As regards the US, one day, America will wake up to realize that the "Home of the Brave" has become the home of a bunch of frightened fools. Maybe. (of course I realize that there are bands of wingnuts that would happily shoot me for daring to talk trash about 'their' land).
posted by Goofyy at 4:54 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I dunno, Goofyy. Part of me is still in shock about what they did to Boston. "You did WHAT to a multi-million person metropolis? And you not only got AWAY with it, but the sound bites are that it was a GOOD IDEA?" It really just shook me to my core. (I'm referring to the lockdown, not the bombing, of course.)

Ultimately I think when historians look back on this era they'll note that this was when terrorism was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be the most effective way of waging war; they'll compare it to a form of judo: using the enemy's weight and inertia against them while keeping one's self steady and unexposed.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:06 AM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Historians already do note that guerrilla warfare is the most effective type. We only use the term 'terrorism' so that our comforting distinctions between being-at-war or being-at-peace can remain intact.

I think it's a misperception that this is due to people in authority trying to bully others; the bigger problem is people in authority covering their arses. The former is a (too frequent) anomaly, the latter is absolutely endemic and built-in, and there won't be any change on that front until police forces and security guards once again feel that they comprehend the nature of the threats they might face.
posted by forgetful snow at 8:07 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]




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