A Political Arrest

D700: 19mm

One of the more noticeable aspects of the long series of protests outside One Commercial St have been the various changes in the police response. At a personal level, relations between police and protesters have usually been cordial, with the protesters and police sometimes greeting each other on arrival as old friends. Though good anarchists with a firm belief that the police are an arm of state oppression and often expressing the view summed up in the acronym ACAB, they perhaps see the individual officers as duped members of the working class rather than the real enemies – the rich. “You should be on our side” they often tell the bill.

Class War’s protests are largely theatre, and many of the police at times show considerable evidence of being amused by them, more often obviously trying to suppress this.

But the most obvious aspect of the police response to the protests is inconsistency. I get the feeling that this is a result of political pressure on the police coming both from the complaints of the owners of the building and their influential political friends (the current owner is a Texan property tycoon and friend of Prince Harry), and also, since Class War entered the party political arena by standing candidates for the General Election, from high up the in the government.

A woman officer approaches Lisa McKenzie and tells her she is being arrested. D700: 16mm

It’s beyond belief that what happened outside One Commercial St on April 2nd was not a result of Lisa McKenzie standing for Class War against controversial government minister Iain Duncan Smith in Chingford.

D800: 93mm eq

The political sensitivity over this was something that led to the ridiculous over-policing of her election launch visit there in March, where a van full of police sat waiting in the station car park half an hour before they arrived and followed their every move around town until they all came out of the pub and took the train out of town. Even a single bobby on a bike would have been something of overkill.

There is no other explanation other than the political for the singling out of McKenzie and her arrest by a large snatch squad that took place towards the end of the protest on April 2nd. Police stated at the time of her arrest that it was for putting stickers on the window of One Commercial St (which they say is ‘criminal damage’) during the protest two weeks earlier.

Police put the handcuffs on Lisa McKenzie and take her away. D700: 20mm

Certainly people did put stickers on the windows at that protest, but Lisa was not among the perhaps five or ten who did so. If she had done, I would have taken a photo showing it, as I too was paying special attention to her because of her Chingford candidacy. No other person was arrested.

They are still charging her with placing stickers, alleging that this caused £50 of criminal damage, but have also added two other charges, of using threatening / abusive words / behaviour or disorderly behaviour and displaying a poster with intent to cause harassment / alarm or distress. The poster in question is an old Class War one, used at many protests and base on an old magazine cover, a graphic showing crosses in an extensive graveyard leading away to the distance, with the text ‘We have found new homes for the rich.’

It may – like most other Class War posters and banners – be thought by many to be in poor taste, but I find it impossible to see it as personally threatening and likely to cause distress. It will be a very sad day for freedom of speech in the UK if any court comes to a different conclusion.

D700: 20mm

Lisa McKenzie has been refused legal aid – something that few people can now get in the UK – and set up an appeal on a crowd-funding site, Lisa Mckenzie’s Campaign: The Right to Protest, to get the money to fight her case. It used – without my permission – the image from the head of this post on it (for once I don’t have any problem with this.) The appeal reached its initial goal within about a day, but more cash is still welcome.

D700: 19mm

Probably the hardest thing about taking the pictures at this and other arrests is keeping calm. I don’t always manage it. There was quite a lot of jostling and quite a few of the images I took were unsharp. Quite a few were obscured by police helmets or protesters.

D700: 22mm

Things also happen fast – from the first picture as police officers approached Lisa to her being thrown into the police van took 83s.

There were other people – including quite a few of the protesters as well as several photographers – also taking pictures of the arrest. The important thing is perhaps to keep thinking and keep anticipating. I was in the right place when they rushed with her towards the police van because I’d stopped taking pictures and moved there before the police did.

All of the images except one were taken with the 16-35mm on the D700. I didn’t really have time to change cameras and didn’t need to, but there are small differences in the zoom focal length, perhaps showing I was thinking about framing. A few of the pictures are cropped slightly, so I didn’t always have time to get it right, but the best are with the full frame.

You can see more of the sequence of 11 covering the arrest in order in Chingford candidate arrested at Poor Doors, along with images from the other 58 minutes of the protest.


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 taken by and copyright of 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.