Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Nanny-state thugs still don't get it, despite receiving the memo

British journalist Paul Lewis of the Guardian investigates complaints from local photographers about being harassed while going about their lawful business, and promptly gets worked over by the "authorities" himself for photographing a landmark building in London while standing on a public street, despite the fact that the cops over there recently received specific orders to stop engaging in such harassment:

"It felt like a minor terror alert. Four security guards were watching me, whispering into microphones on their collars. A plainclothes police officer had just covered my camera lens, mentioned the words "hostile reconnaissance" and told me I would be followed around the city if I moved.

Two uniformed officers were on their way to stop and search me under section 44 of the Terrorism Act, he said. Special Branch, the police counter-terrorism unit linked to the secret services, had been informed.

It had taken less than two minutes from the first click of my camera. My subject was the Gherkin, an iconic London landmark photographed hundreds of times a day and, as it turned out, the ideal venue to test claims from a growing number of photographers claiming they cannot take a picture in public without being harassed under anti-terrorist laws.

This was the first week in which police had been ordered to take a more sensible approach to street photography. By Monday morning all 43 police forces in England and Wales had received a memorandum warning them that officers were "confused" over stop and search powers.

'Officers should be reminded that it is not an offence for a member of the public or journalist to take photographs of a public building and use of cameras by the public does not ordinarily permit use of stop and search powers,' the circular said."

Lewis's buddy also got stopped and questioned, despite taking pictures of the encounter with the reporter, not the building, from across the street:

"My colleague, Martin Godwin, had been spotted across the road, where he was using a long lens to take pictures of me. They also stopped him under section 44 and looked at his pictures."

Illegally, as it turns out:

"Section 44 does not specify that officers have the power to look at images"

These types of officially-sanctioned goons, who profess to enforce "the law" while blatantly ignoring the legal restrictions on their own activities, will keep right on with their reprehensible behavior until the agencies involved, as well as the police officers themselves, get sued and socked with heavy enough fines to make them think twice about violating the rights of law-abiding people for no apparent reason.

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