Monitor policing

PHOTOJOURNALIST and LFB member Marc Vallée (who is suing the Met over an alleged assault from last year's "Sack Parliament" protest in Parliament Square) was back in the Square for the 8 October Stop the War Protest. It is reported that a police officer grabbed him from behind on a pedestrian crossing and marched him to the pavement.

It is also reported that Marc told the officer he was a working journalist and showed his UK Press Card. The officer told Marc he was "walking too slow": Marc apologised and told the officer that he has a bad back - and the officer reportedly said: "I know you have a bad back and I know how you got it."

photo © Jason Parkinson
As the police formed a line across the street to halt a "bash the rich" protest on 3 November, Jason Parkinson passed through the line after identifying himself as a journalist. Within seconds another officer told him to join the protest. "I'm press, mate," Jason said. "I don't care who you are," he replied and already had Jason by the arm leading him back through the police line. This was not the officer pictured above, who later said "well, if you use [your camera] as a weapon, mate, I will take it off you."

LFB Vice-Chair Phil Sutcliffe put on one of the green tabards of an NUJ Freedom of the Press monitor to keep an eye on police-press relations at the 8 October demo. "I was one of two observers, both wearing the official NUJ/IFJ (International Federation of Journalists) tabards," he said. "It was suggested LFB should do this because there could have been heaviness - the march had been banned, then went ahead illegally as a free-speech protest. In the event the ban was lifted earlier that morning and that certainly eased the pressure on the situation...

"Obviously our eyes were on what was happening to the journalists, especially photographers. Relatively minor incidents were reported to me, nothing too severe. Photographers were hugely appreciative of us being there as back-up from the union - and the demo organisers thanked us too - and I'd urge that we do this as often as possible when our photographers or reporters may be in tricky situations. It was an eye-opener to me, though something of a mere bagatelle to the photographers on this occasion. A couple told me they thought even minor problems should be noted to build the detailed picture of what goes on to help in our never-ending discussions with police."

Meet the Met

Freelance Organiser John Toner met with staff of the Met's press office to discuss a range of concerns raised over the policing of the Stop the War demo. Their response to photographers' complaint they were continually forced by police to join the march was that the police were required to keep open one lane for traffic, and there was no space between the march and the traffic for photographers to roam.

John said he had seen stills that suggested otherwise, but was shown film footage that indicated there was no room to manoeuvre. He was asked for an alternative suggestion, and suggested we should discuss this with photographers who actually cover the events.

John raised three specific incidents: that of a reporter who was prevented by police from speaking to a photographer; that of a photographer whose Press Card was checked by an officer who rang the verification line and claimed he was told she was not registered; and Marc's case. The Press Office does not handle specific complaints, of course, but John thinks it worth alerting them to these incidents.

Now say sorry...

photo © Guy Smallman
The Metropolitan police can be helpful to photographers. Here a project manager (right) for the privatised Tube maintenance company Metronet is being made to make grovelling apology to a London Freelance Branch member, after an event which you will have to imagine, during industrial action by Tube workers in September. If you have been treated well (or otherwise) by officers, please record the facts at the link below

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