Monday, April 20, 2009

Not that annoying mobile camera anymore

April 20th, 2009 S Kalyana Ramanathan

UK’s venerable paper The Guardian on April 15, 2009 updated its website with 9 video footages of policing excesses witnessed on April 1, 2009 during the G-20 protest near Bank of England headquarters. The death of an innocent newsagent Ian Tomlinson during the protest triggered a wave of witnesses coming forward to share their own shot of police using excessive force to manage the crowd.

Tomlinson had died of a heart attack at the protest scene and was first believed to be a victim of a situation no one in particular can be blamed. But days later, after the G-20 leaders had gone back home, a video sent to The Guardian by a New York fund manager shot using his mobile phone camera revealed that Tomlinson was actually pushed around by a cop before he collapsed and died on the street. Independent Police Complaints Commission is looking into this matter.

A couple of days back yet another video emerged that showed another cop actually slapping a lady protester before hitting her with his baton. This smart lady now has a PR manager appointed to manage her interviews with the media. And guess who is this publicist who is helping her – it is Max Clifford who handled late Jade Goody’s public relations!

The irony of this situation is that all these video footages have come from private citizens using their not-so-sophisticated mobile cameras. No official video of the police excess is out in the public domain yet. After all the cops were given cameras and even got a vantage point perched up high pedestal shooting the protest scene. I was there at the G-20 protest (as a journalist of course) and am not imagining these things.

Britain’s penchant for placing cameras in public places is now world famous. On the basis of an outdated statistic (as old as 2002), there are at least 4.2 million CCTV cameras in public places in the UK. This means there is one camera for every 14 people in the UK. The walking tour guides tell that on an average, while you are on the streets of London, you are shot by one of these cameras some 300 times a day!

Yet how the cops near Bank of England during the G-20 protest manage not being shot on one of their own cameras is a miracle in itself. Or weren’t there enough CCTV cameras at the protest venue? That is hard to believe given the protest was happening right outside Band of England headquarters. Personally I cannot think of a more vulnerable spot in all of the UK, every inch of which needs to be watched.

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