Paranoia or Politics?

I was outside the US Embassy at dusk on Sunday, photographing a protest on the 7th anniversary of the first prisoners being held at Guantanamo – and remembering those who are still there and still being mistreated, including two Londoners.

To remind us, there were two figures in orange jumpsuits standing manacled while the speeches were being made, so of course I went to photograph them, framing them under the watchful eye of the eagle and the stars and stripes on the embassy roof.

Not of course an original idea, and something I’ve done myself before on numerous occasions, so I was rather suprised when a police officer came up to me and told me not to take pictures that included the US embassy, but to restrict my photographs to point my camera away from the building.

I asked why, and the answer of course was “security“. Which is of course total nonsense, but  rather a common answer these days. Although it is an impressively ugly building, it has been photographed many times and pictures of it are widely available, and it is hard to see how any picture of it could represent a security risk. Rather easier to see why the US government might not wish it to be associated with such.

But I suppose these days I should think myself lucky not to be searched or arrested for taking photographs – like some others. And things could be much worse. While I was being given a polite warning I was listening to a Muslim man from Walthamstow talking about his experience of spending 18 months in prison for having a rather more impressive beard than mine and liking to go paint-balling. The police called it “military training” but fortunately for him the jury were less paranoid.

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