Vandals
August 8, 2015 8:10 AM   Subscribe

“We had to block the road, we had to call out the bomb squad, we had to call up supervisors to come down, we had to close everywhere off because your vehicle was parked in a higher security hotspot in London with that written on the sides. That’s the justification, it doesn’t say ‘Spain is Great’, ‘Italy is Great’, whatever.” Counter-terrorism police were called this week to investigate a family van parked in central London, with ‘Iran is Great’ emblazoned on its sides posted by fearfulsymmetry (51 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Are we certain that the damage wasn't done by people who still hate A Flock of Seagulls?
posted by Etrigan at 8:25 AM on August 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


Police Intelligence - still an oxymoron.
posted by Segundus at 8:35 AM on August 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


www.ThisVanIsABomb.com
posted by srboisvert at 8:38 AM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nice story behind their van.
posted by markkraft at 8:44 AM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


What I really love is the assumption that terrorists are going to telegraph their moves by displaying loud and ostentatious designs on their weapon of choice.
posted by symbioid at 8:47 AM on August 8, 2015 [26 favorites]


What I don't love is the violation of free speech principles in the name of anti-terrorism.
posted by symbioid at 8:48 AM on August 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


The UK has an entirely different approach to freedom of speech.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:50 AM on August 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


The reason they created their van in the first place was because after they had all of their possessions stolen out of their vehicle when touring Iran, the people of Iran showed them immense kindness and hospitality, and helped them continue on their journeys.

Perhaps they should repaint and register Britainsucks.com, assuming someone hasn't taken the domain already.
posted by markkraft at 8:52 AM on August 8, 2015 [15 favorites]


What I really love is the assumption that terrorists are going to telegraph their moves by displaying loud and ostentatious designs on their weapon of choice.

Surely, terrorists would have also had a QR code on the van what with being technically sophisticated enough to hijack a predator drone and go after Prime Minister Stephen Fry.
posted by srboisvert at 8:54 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Parking a large van with blacked out windows illegally outside a major London landmark is a freedom of speech issue?
posted by sobarel at 8:56 AM on August 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


The UK has an entirely different approach to freedom of speech.

In that yes, on paper such a thing exists, but the massive exceptions subsume the right almost entirely, should the government decide.

Parking a large van with blacked out windows illegally outside a major London landmark is a freedom of speech issue?

Where did you get that it was illegally parked? Did the article say that? Or does "parked in a higher security hotspot in London" imply illegally parked, rather than parked in a place where the police could see it easily and read what was written on the side?
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:01 AM on August 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


Parking a large van with blacked out windows illegally outside a major London landmark is a freedom of speech issue?

It doesn't seem to have been illegally parked, but even if it were, that's not exactly an act of terrorism.
posted by rtha at 9:07 AM on August 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Parking a large van with blacked out windows illegally outside a major London landmark is a freedom of speech issue?

RTFA. Or at least look at the pictures.
posted by bracems at 9:07 AM on August 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


If that photo in the article is where it was parked, that's obviously a pedestrian area and not a road/carpark/legal parking space. If that was a legal parking area, outside a famous London tourist spot, in the middle of the summer holidays, it would be full of other cars.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:07 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


What an embarassment for London.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:09 AM on August 8, 2015


If that photo in the article is where it was parked, that's obviously a pedestrian area and not a road/carpark/legal parking space. If that was a legal parking area, outside a famous London tourist spot, in the middle of the summer holidays, it would be full of other cars.

Google street view clearly shows other cars, and panel vans even, parked in the same place. It was probably empty because the bomb squad cleared the area, why else would journalists be taking photos of a random van before that happened?
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:12 AM on August 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


Nothing in the article says that the picture shows the van where it was parked. I'm pretty sure that if that van were illegally parked in central London it would have been ticketed and towed after the police finished smashing it up.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:13 AM on August 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


The fact that it was illegally parked explains why the van ticketed and towed. Oh wait, something else happened?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:14 AM on August 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


OK, I stand corrected.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:17 AM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


It was on Exhibition Road which is residents permit parking only. The officer tells them in the video that they were illegally parked and that's why the vehicle was deemed suspicious. The windows on the rear of the van are covered with blinds / curtains in all the photos, and in the videos.

The police couldn't locate the owners so smashed a window to have a look inside (and offer to pay the cost of replacement in the video!) - it's pretty naive to think this is unpredictable, or that the same (or worse) wouldn't have happened in any other major city.
posted by sobarel at 9:18 AM on August 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


The police couldn't locate the owners so smashed a window to have a look inside

Do the police not know how to jimmy a lock? Takes three seconds, costs nothing.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:24 AM on August 8, 2015


Sorry, not towed. Just ticketed I guess. But still.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:27 AM on August 8, 2015


There is no visitor parking in Exhibition Road. The nearest pay and display bays are in Prince Consort Road and Queen's Gate.

But should have just been ticketed and towed
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:30 AM on August 8, 2015


We all know that bullies are cowards, and here's more evidence of it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:01 AM on August 8, 2015


The police couldn't locate the owners so smashed a window to have a look inside

Which, considering they failed in their basic duty to notify the family, was a shitty thing to do.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 10:11 AM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


The police couldn't locate the owners so smashed a window to have a look inside

Which is kind of a batshit nuts thing to do if you think there might be a chance the van is packed with explosives or something. It would be childsplay to rig a detonation to a vehicle security system. smash-BOOOOOM
posted by Thorzdad at 12:07 PM on August 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


that's obviously a pedestrian area and not a road/carpark/legal parking space.

Exhibition Road has a bizarre public realm scheme where they've repaved it as if it were pedestrianised but it still has the same amount of motor traffic and parking. It invites confusion.
posted by grahamparks at 12:12 PM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the real lesson to be learned here is that you should emblazon your truck bomb with "IRAN IS TERRIBLE" if you want to avoid detection in London.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:22 PM on August 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


They seem like a lovely family, having a wonderful adventure, and it's very sad that this happened to their van. That said, I've been in London for the past month (British Library Manuscript room!) and it has the worst traffic and the most restrictive parking of any city I've ever seen. By definition, you cannot park ANYWHERE in central London, let alone within easy walking distance to the V & A. I was in that area as a pedestrian two weekends ago and my friend and I could barely move. I'm surprised they assumed that they found anywhere to park it, and I'm stunned that it wasn't impounded outright.

I call major bullshit on this one. Park the van outside of the city and take the train in. Especially if you are sleeping in the van, which is probably illegal outside of a campground.
posted by jrochest at 3:29 PM on August 8, 2015


> I call major bullshit on this one.

Call bullshit on what? That it happened at all, or what?
posted by rtha at 3:47 PM on August 8, 2015


That they thought that was a valid parking space.
posted by jrochest at 3:55 PM on August 8, 2015


And that they're driving a van the size of a delivery truck around a city that has insane restrictions on private vehicles. But mostly the parking spot thing.
posted by jrochest at 3:56 PM on August 8, 2015


London... has the worst traffic and the most restrictive parking of any city I've ever seen

Hmm... Mumbai beats London hands down for traffic any day, and I've had far more trouble parking in Paris.

As for "you cannot park ANYWHERE in central London", well, I have to disagree. That isn't to say that parking further out and taking the train/bus/tube isn't a good idea, but it certainly is possible.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 3:58 PM on August 8, 2015


I'm sure it does: I've never been to India, so there's a lot of places I've not seen. But the point still stands -- how could you possibly think this was a good idea?
posted by jrochest at 4:03 PM on August 8, 2015


London has bugger all restrictions on private vehicles. You can drive pretty much anything pretty much anywhere at any time with no fuss. If the number plate cameras catch you you might be liable for the Congestion Charge or the Low Emissions Zone charge, but no one will physically stop you. The relevant borough (Kensington & Chelsea) is famously car-friendly due to its many vocal rich car-owning residents.

Compared to somewhere like Oxford where private vehicles are completely banned from the city centre, London is motorists' heaven - ignoring the ridiculous traffic jams that letting anyone drive anywhere causes, obviously.
posted by grahamparks at 4:26 PM on August 8, 2015


It never ceases to amaze how, when the police have clearly overstepped their authority on some unfortunate civilians, there will always be people ready to step up and point out some needling, minor infractions the civilians committed. It makes anyone falling afoul of overzealous police effectively at fault for being careless, because the assumption behind this is the police can do whatever the fuck they please and that, we should accept.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 4:34 PM on August 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


Well, if they had overstepped their authority that would be one thing, but the van was illegally parked in a high-security pedestrian district that's home to a bunch of museums which draw a lot of tourists. According to the Guardian article, the museum security flagged the van and broadcast a message for the owners to return to the van; when there wasn't a response, they called the cops, who evacuated the museum, taped off the area, broke into the van and went over it with bomb dogs. None of this strikes me as particularly odd behavior, nor does it strike me that the police are doing whatever the fuck they please.

The message on the side probably made people more nervous than they would otherwise be -- but it's an illegally parked panel van, outside a major tourist attraction. Their reaction seems fairly reasonable. If you doubt this, rent a plain-jane box van and park it on 5th Avenue outside the Met or on Constitution outside the Smithsonian for a couple of hours, and see what happens.

Really, what the hell? The shooting of suspects in the London bombing was the cops overstepping their authority. This a broken window. Don't be an entitled ass, and park someplace else.
posted by jrochest at 5:14 PM on August 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


plus you know the peelers saying that they wouldn't have reacted the same without the words on the van so that's a thing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:53 PM on August 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


> or on Constitution outside the Smithsonian

Quick, call the cops!
posted by rtha at 6:59 PM on August 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yes, it was a weird overreaction by the cops that stank of a kind of profiling. OTOH London has a long history of terrorist bombings so it doesn't surprise me they're twitchy. Not saying it's right, but it's not the craziest abuse of authority I've heard of even in the last half-hour.

Not entirely relevantly, I think it's kind of dickish for a tourist to drive a thing like that into London anyway, let alone use it for getting around there. I've driven in the UK a lot; I have never driven a car into London. Well, come to think of it, once, straight to a paid parking assignment where it stayed until I left.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:37 PM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


No, it definitely isn't the craziest abuse of police power. But it was certainly hyperbolic, a waste of time and money, and based entirely on some weird quasi-profiling assumptions that aren't even grounded in reality. The fact that this can be handwaved with "but illegal parking!" is just another tired example of zealous cop apologia.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:01 AM on August 9, 2015


Especially if you are sleeping in the van, which is probably illegal outside of a campground.
Is this actually illegal in the UK? Here there are places you can't park overnight but sleeping in your car is legal. Making it illegal would lower safety.
posted by Mitheral at 7:31 AM on August 9, 2015


The shooting of suspects in the London bombing was the cops overstepping their authority

Seriously, if you're calling the state-ordered murder of an wholly innocent man, Jean Charles De Menezes, and it's subsequent cover up simply "the cops overstepping their authority", I don't know what to say to you.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 8:11 AM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm completely fine with this as a London resident. People leaving bombs in vans in central London is something that happens on a semi-regular basis, from the IRA to this. We don't have rubbish bins in transit centres for the same reason (people leave bombs in them).

Of course we are touchier about this than people who live in places that have never been bombed - our level of risk is quite different. The police will absolutely break into illegally-parked vans outside prominent landmarks, and Exhibition Road is quite clearly not a place you can legally park, there are signs everywhere. If you look at the picture it is parked directly in front of the Science Museum front door - if you know the road at all it very obviously Should Not Be There.

As a comparison, do you think Boston police would be cool with a van left parked across the marathon finish line next year? Or do you think they would maybe check it out? From a London perspective this is the same level of "suspiciously-abandoned van". It's not like they carried out a controlled explosion, they just checked it wasn't full of explosives, after trying and failing to find the owners.
posted by tinkletown at 10:50 AM on August 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Seriously, if you're calling the state-ordered murder of an wholly innocent man, Jean Charles De Menezes, and it's subsequent cover up simply "the cops overstepping their authority", I don't know what to say to you.

Yes, urbanwhaleshark, that's obviously exactly what I meant, and not in any way an exaggeration.
posted by jrochest at 3:03 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Of course we are touchier about this than people who live in places that have never been bombed - our level of risk is quite different.

Dude you must fucking terrified on St Patrick's Day.

(Birmingham resident, former resident of London and Beirut, this was an overreaction)
posted by howfar at 1:13 AM on August 10, 2015


Howfar, I had friends in the Admiral Duncan bombing. But mock away.
posted by tinkletown at 1:54 AM on August 10, 2015


The mockery isn't of the victims of terrorist violence. It's your support for the Met's explicit racism I'm mocking.
posted by howfar at 5:01 AM on August 10, 2015


You may want to gloss over the bit where they explained that they did it for racist reasons, but it's a matter of record that they did.
posted by howfar at 5:03 AM on August 10, 2015


To be clear, Harry Stanley would be alive if it weren't for the racism in the Met; Jean Charles de Menezes would be alive if it weren't for the racism in the Met; Azelle Rodney would still be alive if it weren't for the racism in the Met; Stephen Lawrence would have had justice if it weren't for the racism in the Met.

I don't want Londoners to suffer, I want them to have a competent and non-racist police force. They don't have one.
posted by howfar at 5:19 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


it's pretty naive to think this is unpredictable, or that the same (or worse) wouldn't have happened in any other major city.

agreed.

what's more, this is obvious trolling by the wackdoodle family. they absolutely intended to cause a kerfuffle like this ... the story about why they stenciled "Iran Is Great" on their van is patent fucking nonsense.

good job outraged Mefites, you're eating right out of their hands!
posted by jayder at 7:03 PM on August 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


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