In the latest dispatch in the British state’s ongoing war on photographers (or was that supposed to be terrorists?), a father and son from Austria have been ‘ordered’ by two policemen to delete pictures of bus and tube stations from their digital camera. Klaus and Loris Matzka were told that it was ‘strictly forbidden’ to take such pictures and the police took their personal details including passport numbers and the addresses of the hotel where they were staying.
This is harassment and intimidation, pure and simple. Later The Guardian quotes the Metropolitan Police as sating that they “had no knowledge of any ban on photographing public transport in the capital.” This is a curious way to put it. It is not a question of the police’s knowledge of a ban. There is no ban. The police are well aware of this.
The Met in particular, are currently way out at the edge of their powers and pushing the envelope rather too far, but it seems with relative impunity. As I have written before, they seem to think it is suspicious to be interested in CCTV. It is also apparently suspicious (if not ‘strictly forbidden’) to take pictures of almost anything. But there’s much more. This is also the same force that invaded Parliament mob-handed to arrest Conservative MP, Damien Green, for it now seems, entirely political reasons. This is the same force whose officers have been captured on camera beating protestors – and who may have caused a passer-by to die of a heart-attack. This is the same force that keeps tabs on law-abiding protestors nationwide in case they might break the law, and that provides offices to private organisations running their own intelligence operations (ACPO). And, let us not forget, this is the same force whose incompetent surveillance operation resulted in the shooting of an innocent Brazilian man in the mistaken belief that he was a terrorist.
The Metropolitan Police needs to have a serious lesson in the liberties that they are supposed to be protecting, not restricting. Rather than learning the lessons of inquiry after inquiry, officers (and whether it is more than indvidual officers, one cannot say) appear to be out of control and making de facto policy by intimidation. Surely, this cannot be allowed to continue?