EDL Return to Dudley

Around 300 English Defence League protesters returned to protest in Dudley. There was violence throughout the day as the EDL attacked police, pulled down metal fencing and rampaged through Dudley. The EDL had previously protested in Dudley against the proposed building of a Mosque, however, the plans were subsequently shelved. There are now plans to extend the existing Mosque instead.

Photos: EDL Return to Dudley

Following the English Defence League

I’ve been covering the rise of the far-right, anti-Islamic English Defence League for the last year or so now. Their protests across the county have grown considerably from the few hundred that I first photographed in Birmingham, to the thousands in Dudley this past weekend.

Hallmarks of the EDL are insobriety, violence and racism. Their violence is often unprovoked and directed indiscriminately at whoever is nearest; be they police, press or anti-fascist protesters. Journalists who have exposed the EDL’s true nature have received death threats and photographers often come under a hail of glass bottles and coins when covering their protests.

Today I’ve written a report of what happened in Dudley this weekend, which I believe has been their largest protest yet, for the Expose the BNP campaign website.

The EDL are the only political group in the UK holding regular protests every month attracting thousands of supporters from around the country. Unite Against Fascism, which usually call counter-protests to the EDL, originally outnumbered them 2:1 now the opposite is true.

The threat from the EDL is real and growing. As journalists we must ensure their violent, racist core is exposed. The EDL are not simply “Peacefully protesting against militant Islam” as their publicity rather quaintly says and we must show that.

Expose the BNP are holding a pre-election Media Briefing on Wednesday 7th April on the BNP and far-right.

Climate Camp: Code of Conduct

A metal fence has been placed around the camp to 'defend' the site.

As Climate Camp set up on Blackheath in south London yesterday I got hold of a copy of the code of conduct that journalists will be asked to sign if they want to stay on the camp outside of media hours (10am-6pm) and it makes for fascinating reading.

Most of it reinforces the camp’s existing media policy such as asking for everyone’s permission when taking a photograph. The code says ‘When you want to take a picture or a video and it includes people, always, always ask first. If you can’t ask don’t take the picture.

The camp’s organisers claim that all decisions are made with consensus from everyone. But reading through the minutes of the national meetings before the camp, the code of conduct is only ever mentioned in passing. There is never a discussion about what it should be and what it should contain.

So what has resulted is the media team’s moral view on what the press should be allowed to do being imposed on everyone at the camp and on journalists. We do not allow the police to impose their moral view of what should be photographed on us, so why should journalists subscribe to the media team’s views?

Are they supposing that if the police were to raid the camp we wouldn’t be able to photograph it unless we asked everyone defending the camp their permission first? I spent all day photographing people setting up the camp, I didn’t ask a single one for their permission and no-one asked me not to take their picture.

In an interesting twist, this year’s camp is on common land, unlike previous years where they have squatted someone else’s land for a week. So the argument is no longer that they have no right to impose rules on land that doesn’t belong to them, but that they have no right to impose rules on land that belongs to everybody.

Their right to be on the land is equal to mine and any other member of the public. Just because they’ve put a fence up does not give them the right to restrict access or impose restrictions on access.

The final bizarre section is entitled ‘Understand our community’ and states:

  • Anyone who is responsible for violence, intimidation, harassment or unwanted sexual contact will by their behaviour exclude themselves from the camp.
  • We reject any form of language and behaviour that perpetuates oppression, however unintentionally: for example a racist or sexist joke, or interrupting someone on the basis of unspoken privilege.
  • Stealing and other breaches of trust, including informing on camp activities, will also exclude the person responsible from the camp. All allegations will be treated seriously but with an awareness that they can be divisive, especially if unsubstantiated.

Perhaps they copied and pasted this section from something they were going to hand out to campers because I certainly don’t think it can apply to journalists.

No interrupting? I’m not sure broadcast and radio journalists will be able to be follow that one for more than a minute interviewing someone. And the idea that journalists would steal, use violence or sexually harass someone on the camp are so far fetched I’m not going to discuss them.

I find the last point particularly insulting, I’ll assume they mean ‘informing’ in the sense of passing the police information that was given in confidence, rather than informing people by reporting – as is our job. Not giving unpublished material over to the state is an issue that journalists go to prison for.

In any case the campers needn’t worry as we’ve already to agreed to a code of conduct – the NUJ Code of Conduct. And that is the only code I will be agreeing to as I cover Climate Camp this week.

I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist!

Launch Poster

I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! is a new campaign group set up by photographers who are fed up with the restrictions photographers face while working on the streets or, in some cases, even fields.

We will fight back against the use of terrorism legislation against photographers and the abuse by the police of stop & search powers simply because people are taking photographs.

We’ll collect accounts from people who have been stopped and searched or harassed by officials for taking photographs in public places and we have produced a ‘Stop & Search Bust Card’ summarising your rights when stopped under the Terrorism Acts. When the officers performing searches sometimes don’t seem to know the law themselves it’s vital for photographers to know what the police can and can’t do.

The police won’t even tell us where S44 (allowing police to stop and search anyone without any suspicion in a designated area) is in force so we’ll be mapping where people have reported being stopped and searched to build up a picture of how the powers are being used and abused.

We’ll be doing more than just watching, reporting and raising awareness. After the success of the event outside New Scotland Yard highlighting the Alice in Wonderland craziness of new laws against photographing police officers earlier this year we’ll be arranging more events around the country to expose how ridiculous this legislation is and how pointless the restrictions are in pseudo-public places like shopping centres or Canary Wharf.

We are photographers, not terrorists. We need to fight back against this repressive legislation and start a proper campaign for the right to photograph before photography becomes a part of history rather than a way of recording it.

This post originally appeared on Photo Legal

Vestas Workers Occupation

View these images in the Gallery

The occupation of the Vestas wind turbine blade factory continues with around 10 workers still occupying the offices of the factory in Newport, Isle of Wight. Workers occupied the factory over a week ago after management announced the closure of the factory and a loss of over 600 jobs by the end of the month. Music performed by Seize the Day.

So it goes

Yesterday saw the last day that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights took evidence on the committee looking into Policing and Protest. Vernon Coker, the minister for Policing, Crime and Security was questioned by MPs and you can listen to his evidence here. He gives assurances that after meeting with the NUJ in October new and revised guidance was issued to officers about dealing with the media.

We must not under any circumstances unwittingly put ourselves in a situation where photographers, journalists or others may feel that they do not have the right and do not believe that they can pursue their professional job and the public interest.

Vernon Coaker MP

Yet one day before when photojournalist Marc Vallée and videographer Jason Parkinson were covering a protest outside the Greek Embassy, both were assaulted and restricted from carrying out their jobs by Police.

Parkinson has posted a video rush of one of the incidents on Current.tv which you can view here:

What I find most shocking is not the officer placing his hand over both the journalists camera’s, clearly he’s not read the new media guidelines, it’s when he says ‘Scum’ as he walks away. Not only an incredibly stupid thing to say in front of a camera, but extremely unprofessional to say the least. He was an armed diplomatic protection officer and should definitely know better.

Sadly this is the latest in a long series of ongoing incidents of Police intimidating and attacking the press.

No On 8

Within days of arriving the movement surrounding the ‘No On 8′ campaign erupted into large street protests after a narrow defeat at the polls.  The new law meant that same-sex couples could no longer marry in California.

Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

– Proposition 8, California State Constitution

The ‘No On 8′ campaign had been organising lots of protests all over the state at very short notice using the internet, specifically the social networking site Twitter As I watched the morning news I cursed myself for missing a large demonstration the night before in downtown LA, just a few blocks from where I was staying, where a protester had jumped on a cop car they mentioned there was another protest later that day outside the Mormon Temple.

Eager not to miss out again I grabbed my lonely planet guide and frantically flicked through it hoping it would be listed, thankfully it was, I worked out which busses to get, grabbed my kit and made the 2 hour trip across town.

The ‘No On 8′ campaigners directed their ire at the Mormon Church as they had heavily funded the ‘Yes’ campaign and had lobbied it’s own parishioners to vote for the proposition as well.

When I arrived outside the temple about half an hour before it was due to start there were already a few hundred protesters, a fleet of news vans and two cops watching the whole thing from across the street.

The protest quickly grew, a few more hundred arrived then a few hundred more ’til there were suddenly about a thousand and they pushed out into the road, stopping traffic along both sides of Santa Monica Blvd.

It was then that I got my audio kit out to start getting some ambient sound to put together a video, you can see the result below. It was my first time using audio and my first time editing it as well. In retrospect it could of been a lot tighter in the editing but I think I did a good job of condensing 6 hours of pounding the streets of LA into about 5 minutes.

View these photos in the Gallery

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