As the United Kingdom approaches its first year since enacting a law that made it a terrorist act to photograph police in public, punishable by up to ten years in prison, thousands of professional photographers are preparing for a massive protest against the controversial law.
The protest is scheduled on the following Saturday; January 23 in London’s Trafalgar Square at noon. It comes in the wake of several questionable incidents where police have either arrested or harassed photographers for the simple act of taking photos in public, including a few well-known professional journalists and photographers.
Organized by the online campaign, I am a Photographer, Not a Terrorist, the protest is expected to be the largest demonstration against the law since it was enacted in February 2009 when it prompted an initial large protest in front of Scotland Yard and several flash mob demonstrations in the following months.
However, it is not only photographers protesting the United Kingdom’s willingness to give up personal freedoms in exchange for the pretense of security.
The European Court of Human Rights recently determined that Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which allows police to stop and search people without reasonable suspicion, is illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights, which supersedes U.K. law.
British officials plan to appeal the ruling and have vowed to continue shaking down its citizens without cause during the appeal process.
As the battle between photographers and police heat up, London is preparing to host the 2012 summer Olympics, which will bring in hundreds of thousands of tourists, creating a possible public relations disaster if police begin to arrest tourists for taking pictures.