Brighton Revisited

Photojournalist Marc Vallée is filmed by an officer of the Police Foward Intelligence Team
Photojournalist Marc Vallée is filmed by an officer of the Police Foward Intelligence Team

Yesterday the Brighton based group SmashEDO held a protest against the arms manufacturer EDO MBM whose factory is based in Moulescoomb just outside of Brighton. Past protests outside the factory have been violent, with protesters getting inside the compound, smashing windows and entering the factory.

This time was no different, with arrests taking place before the march had started and riot police being deployed using batons, shields and CS spray.

But half an hour before the protest was due to start as my colleague and I sat in the car a member of the Police Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) began filming us from across the road before coming over and asking who we were. After identifying ourselves as members of the press and showing our UK Press cards the officer continued to question and film us. 

Whilst this was not as bad as the treatment we received at Climate Camp earlier in the year where our car was continually stopped and searched by police, in one case officers knew who I was and that I was journalist before I even spoke to them but I was searched regardless.

Later on when we left the car and stood under the covering of a railway station to shelter from the rain whilst we waited for the protest to begin Police told us that we would have to move and weren’t allowed to photograph near the station where protesters would be arriving.

There is no law against photographing railway stations or their surrounds, this officer was clearly being officious and confrontational, but I felt that if I had taken a picture I would of been very quickly bundled into the back of a police van.

During the protest journalists were also assaulted by police, photojournalist Marc Vallée was pushed back violently as he was photographing protesters and photographer Guy Smallman was bitten by a police attack dog which required medical attention.

The Police’s job would certainly be easier if we weren’t around to photograph what they do, but there is a clearly a very good reason to do so. This job isn’t getting any easier. 

You can view my full set of images of the protest here

I’ve just read on Marc Valeé’s blog how these knuckle draggers seemingly set out to target you. It sounds really shitty.

Somewhat bizarrely when I covered the Olympic parade in London, there was a FIT team filming people, although what they felt they were obtaining in ‘intelligence’ I can’t imagine!

Hang in there and stay safe.

Michael

“…photographer Guy Smallman was bitten by a police attack dog which required medical attention.”

I’m acquainted with Guy through our membership of the London Freelance Branch of the NUJ. But I wasn’t aware that he is toxic to police dogs.

As for Climate Camp, I too was searched by the police – on three occasions – despite identifying myself as a journalist. The officers concerned were courteous and professional, but I couldn’t help feeling that the policing of the event as a whole was politically-motivated.

I’m sorry to hear you’ve had your taste of police harrassment. But try and imagine what it is like for protesters (in theory a lawful activity). To go on a protest these days is to be almost certain of intimidation, surveilance, assault, insults, and aggressive, illegal orders from police, with arrest if you don’t do what you’re told immediately. It’s as if expressing oneself politically makes one a criminal. Maybe you could think a bit more about this when you make ambiguous statements like ‘past protests outside the factory have been violent’, as if a few broken windows is equivalent to the blood, bruises and broken bones dished out by the police. We are rapidly heading towards a totalitarian society and I think everyone needs to take this seriously, whether or not they choose to exercise their rapidly disappearing right to freedom of political expression or not.