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I am an artist: I am not a terrorist

by on July 4, 2010

image: Steve Renn


From → Performances

  1. @ Jack Hutchinson, AIR

    The Home Secretary Theresa May has announced that the police’s controversial use of counterterrorism stop and search powers against individuals is to be scrapped with immediate effect.

    Under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, officers could stop and search anyone in a designated area even if there was no suggestion they were acting suspiciously. It was used on more than 148,798 occasions last year alone, and was seen as a key element in the campaign against terrorism.

    However, the unnecessary application of section 44 to stop and search artists and photographers had received heavy criticism. A report by Pauline Hadaway, director of Belfast Exposed gallery, revealed the alarming restrictions being imposed on photography in public spaces. She cited the case of Steve Carroll, a 53-year-old financial director who was taking photographs in Hull city centre. Police officers issued him with a formal stop and search on the grounds of ‘obtaining photos of sensitive material.’ They seized two rolls of film, which they developed and subsequently returned.

    More recently an amateur photographer of no fixed abode was held under anti-terror laws outside the Wimbledon tennis championships after security guards suspected him of being a terrorist. Michael Ryan was visiting Wimbledon for the day to photograph activity surrounding the tournament from Church Road, a public highway outside the club.

    He told Amateur Photographer magazine: “There was nothing any other photographer or news group must have already and there were cameras there all the time. All I can say is that it must have been a case of victimisation.”

    Police claimed that Ryan refused to supply his address details when he was stopped under section 44 of the Terrorism Act. However, the reason for this is that Ryan is currently classed as homeless because he doesn’t have a fixed address.

    The very same day another amateur photographer was also stopped outside Buckingham Palace, this time for displaying ‘suspicious’ behaviour in front of Prince Charles. Jules Mattsson, 16, was pounced on by an armed undercover police officer while photographing a cadet unit on the Mall.

    The Home Secretary’s decision to scrap section 44’s use against individuals will hopefully put an end to these ridiculous incidents. May said: “”I am changing the test for authorisation for the use of section 44 powers from requiring a search to be ‘expedient’ for the prevention of terrorism, to the stricter test of it being ‘necessary’ for that purpose. And, most importantly, I am introducing a new suspicion threshold.”

    It follows a ruling by the European court of human rights in January that the powers were unlawful because they were too broadly drawn and lacked sufficient safeguards to protect civil liberties. May said: “Officers will no longer be able to search individuals using section 44 powers. Instead they will have to rely on section 43 powers, which require officers to reasonably suspect the person to be a terrorist.” This is undoubtedly a vital victory for those photographers and artists whose work is engaged with the public realm, as well as the wider public’s right to privacy.

  2. Dave Clinch permalink

    Nice one D!

    Artists have to connect with the struggle. They cannot stand above it or beyond it. Great work from you and other comrade artists in particular. There is much to be done, isn’t there, as we head into the worst attacks on workers for many decades? Culture and art will be in the frontline of attack, and therefore, by definition resistance too.

    ‘A luta continua!’

  3. “Victory Flashmob – Section 44 is Dead!

    Yesterday the European Court of Human Rights rejected the governments appeal to its decision in January that ruled Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

    Although the Home Office has said it is still considering how the ruling affects the law and the police will continue to use it. It’s possible that any Stop & Search under s44 since 12th January 2010 will be open to legal challenge, so hang on to any receipts.

    Unfortunately there are still a swathe of laws that police use to harass photographers, most notably s43, which is similar to s44 but requires an officer to suspect that you are a terrorist and s76 which makes it illegal to ‘elicit information about a police officer’ which includes photographing them.

    In the meantime we’re going back to the place where our campaign started, outside New Scotland Yard. We’ll be gathering at 12 noon, this Sunday 4th July (Independence Day!) Come along and lets celebrate a little more freedom for photographers.”

  4. Steve R permalink

    Good point well made!

  5. Made for the 23 January 2010 mass photo gathering at Trafalgar Square

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