Direct Action Network Roadblock

© 2013, Peter Marshall
The protesters move away from the rally and on to the road

This isn’t the greatest picture I’ve ever taken, but it shows an interesting moment in the protest by the  Disabled Peoples Direct Action Network at the end of the Fuel Poverty Action rally in Whitehall. The text about both actions is at Fuel Poverty Rally & DAN Roadblock.

Earlier in the day I’d missed an attack on a photographer by a group of those marching with the South-East Alliance,  but this time I was wide awake when others had failed to notice the start of the move by protesters to block Whitehall, as the small group of wheelchair protesters had moved quietly a few yards along the road and the woman closest to me had just eased two wheels of her chair onto the road.

At the back of the picture are the police, seemingly quite oblivious to what is happening, with a Forward Intelligence Unit looking rather backward. Closer to the action, but in a small group talking to each other rather than alert to what was happening are three photographers – and there were others around mainly equally oblivious.

Had the other photographers been close enough for me to reach out and touch to alert them to what was happening I would have done so, but it was important to me not to do anything that would interfere with the action that was proceeding – my job was to report it.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
Disabled protesters move out into the road and stop the traffic

I moved in front of the protesters as they moved out into the road and stopped the traffic, keeping  slightly out of the way so that it really was them stopping the traffic and not me.

We had all been given a hint in advance that some kind of direct action would be taking place, but hadn’t known exactly what, where or when. I’d been watching carefully for hints, clues or signals and had spotted and read them more or less correctly and was in the right place at the right time. There are times – and this is one – where you need to try and read situations rather than simply respond to them, though at times I have read them in a disastrously wrong way.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
Wheelchair users and pensioners block Whitehall in protest against cuts and fuel poverty

Where there is a choice I seldom want to work with groups or speakers head on.  It’s usually better to be a little to one side, particularly if people are using microphones. So when the road was blocked, I moved a little to one side, while the main crush of photographers was directly in front.

Looking from the side concentrates your view on those closest to you, while a head on view leaves everyone at the same distance and thus scale. Later I went further to the side and was then able to move in close without blocking the view of other photographers when an officer came to talk to two people he had identified as leaders of the protest – one was holding a megaphone.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
An officer tries to persuade the protesters to move
Even when I moved around to the other side to get a better view of the exchange it was the officer rather than me who was blocking the other photographers.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
Protesters argue with police

But then I had to move back to allow another wheelchair user came up to join in the conversation. After taking a few more pictures the officer moved and I then felt that I was perhaps getting a little in the way of others. I went down on my knees top take a few pictures from a low angle and be less in the way before moving back a little. Once I’d got the pictures I wanted it gave others a chance to get theirs.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
Protesters discuss whether it is time to move

Of course we all get in each other’s way from time to time, and, like the photographer in the image above, we get in each other’s pictures. It’s inevitable when more than one or two photographers are covering an event.

But most of us realise the problem and try to work in cooperation with other photographers. It’s mainly the amateurs, often using their phones who walk in front of other photographers, though a special place in hell is reserved for those few video crews who think they are more important than the rest of us because they work for one of the big media companies.

More pictures at Fuel Poverty Rally & DAN Roadblock.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated are by Peter Marshall and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.