Thursday, October 30, 2008

Round up the usual suspects

I'm starting to sound a little like Forrest Gump. You know the scene when he's on the bench waiting for the bus, chatting away;
"they invited me and the ping-pong team to visit the White House.

So I went, again.

And I met the President of the United States again."

"So I went to a parade and I saw the president, again.

Got threatened by the police again."

Yep. I decided that would take pictures of this years Oxi day parade so I went down to the seafront and snapped away, and managed to get pictures of the president of the Greek republic, Karolos Papoulias, the leader of the main opposition party, Giorgos Papandreou and other assorted political bigwigs.

At some point all the cameramen and photographers were shooed off to the side and I ended up amongst them. A little later I saw some guys arguing with a teenager who'd climbed up some scaffolding to get a better view. He clambered down but then jumped up onto another wall for some reason reluctant to move. Intrigued I decided to take some pictures and quickly I realised that people were hemming me in, discreetly trying to block my view of what was happening. Despite that I took a couple of shots and then returned to follow the parade.

Next thing I know two rough looking guys, wearing mirror shades start beckoning to me, telling me that I had to delete my photos. When I told them that I wasn't as I had every right to take pictures in a public place they turned nasty and said that as they were cops they could take me in for questioning and confiscate the camera.

Next they said something that scared the hell out of me. They said that they knew exactly who I was from what happened last year (see here for the full story of that little encounter) and that ,"I was known to the authorities".
"You mean after I got the crap kicked out of me by the riot police?"

I don't know why but they managed to push all my buttons and bring out stubborn streak in me. So I argued that I wasn't going to do anything till I saw some ID. Eventually they showed me it and demanded again that I delete the photos, which I did. Once again they invoked this mythical law that the no one is allowed to take photographs of the police on duty. No lawyer I've talked to or media professional has ever heard of such legislation.

To tell you the truth, I only brazoned it out them as I know they'd be loathed to make a scene in such a public place. Other photographers have not been so lucky in their dealings with the police. For example leading French photographer, Olivier Jobard, who was beaten and arrested by police in Patras this year when he refused to hand over his camera (
see here for the full story).

I stuck around for another hour or so and then before the parade ended ducked into the crowd and got out of there as quickly as possible. People, especially foreigners, have a strange way of becoming very clumsy in the presence of the police. They trip and land on window boxes resulting in weeks of hospitalisation, fall off balconies in cafes or find themselves dead at the bottom of river beds.As you can imagine I wasn't about to get myself involved in a delicate legal debates with these guys.


deviousdiva said...

That's so scary, TD !

I'm amazed that you stood up for your rights in those circumstances.

Argos said...

"Mafia" was from the other side of the road. You should call us. :-)

x-ray said...

You could restore your deleted pictures by using RescuePRO program, even if you formated the card, it usually work fine.
No comment for the pigs.

Oneiros said...

The more this is going on, the more I'm convinced we need to setup some sort of legal aid for photographers. It ain't just the cops either; businesses have been known to intimidate and ban photographers from the vicinity of their premises (while they themselves may be illegally using CCTVs to monitor whole city blocks) and political groups staging outdoors events have minders that act exactly like cops. I was just shooting some mid-range photos at an impromptu anarchist concert (I made a point of not shooting closeups) and a couple of minders approached me and asked me to delete any photos with identifiable faces in them.
I not only respect the privacy of individuals when shooting, but am actively timid about photographing people, so you can imagine the questioning grated on my nerves.
Gradually, the right to take pictures at public events is being denied to citizen photographers, while various groups use intimidating tactics to cordon off public spaces for their own ends. This does not bode well for democracy & transparency.

Anonymous said...

My two cents of advice:
everytime you hear this "we know who you are" stuff, just smile - they actually don't, they play on the probability that you have done something wrong, in order to intimidate you. In this case, they came right on target.
Without being a smart-aleck, just smile. Let it pass.

Cheryl said...

I just read this today, that is scary. It's such a shame. But, as I take a lot of pics myself, I've been told by other people that I shouldn't take so many because I could end up in trouble. And, I'm not taking pics of political figures and events...go figure. I'm glad that you held your ground.