Nigeria and Shaker

I have to admit I got the story slightly wrong when I first uploaded Repeal Nigeria’s anti-LGBTI laws, thanks to mis-reading the press release that was sent to me by the Peter Tatchell Foundation. Although what I think were the main details about the protest- the who, what, where, when and why – were correct, I hadn’t correctly identified the organiser of the protest, at least not in the text, as Nigerian lesbian activist Aderonke Apata, wearing a green top in the picture above with the message ‘President Buhari Repeal Anti Same-Sex Law in Nigeria –  Respect LGBTs’ Human Rights – Freedom for LGBTs in Nigeria – African Rainbow Family.’ It was a sweat-shirt that was almost a press release in itself, and rather too wordy to make a good photograph.

My initial text had given credit to two other groups taking part, Peter Tatchell with members of his Foundation and the Out And Proud Diamond Group. There were also people from Care2, whose petition had gained 65,000 member signatures along with a second Causes petition with over 8,000.

The pictures I think tell the story of the protest quite well, and certainly show Apata’s leading role in the protest. The image at the top was quite tricky to make, partly because of strong sunlight flaring around the corner of the embassy; Peter Tatchell’s head conveniently acted as a ‘flag’ to block much of this, though needing quite considerable ‘antiflare’ treatment in post-processing. As well as including Apata with some helpful cropping of her shirt’s message to the purpose of the protest ‘President Buhari Repeal Anti Same-Sex Law in Nigeria’ I wanted the arms of Nigeria which are in the top of the Embassy door behind her.

A little post-processing was also needed to make those more clear in the final result – reflections in glass are always less distinct in camera images than to our eyes, which perform some pretty sophisticated processing beyond the capabilities of Lightroom which enable us to separate surface from reflection, in part involving distance perception which almost disappears in the camera image.

Things turned a little to farce when the protesters attempted to deliver the petition. During the protest people had been taking deliveries in through the front door and coming out. Ringing on the bell got little response – except perhaps a voice saying that no one was in. The protesters went to the door where people were still entering and leaving around the side of the building – and were told by the security staff they should take the petition to the front door.

They then tried the middle door – but again could get nobody to take it, and went again to the front door.  I had to leave them to go elsewhere  as they were deciding to leave the boxes on the step.

A short distance away something of a celebration was taking place opposite Downing St after news had at last been given of Shaker Aamer’s eventual release from Guantamo. ‘Bring him back Now’! the protesters shouted; after all he had been cleared for release back in 2007, and had been held without charge or trial there since St Valentines Day 2002.

The supporters of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, whose Chair Joy Hurcombe I caught hiding her embarrassment in the image above as she was being introduced, were overjoyed at the news – and at getting back the lunchtimes every week they have spent standing in a vigil at Parliament every Wednesday it is in session, are still very much aware of the need to keep up protest for the roughly a hundred detainees still held there who have no UK connection. Monthly protests by the London Guantanamo Campaign – which many of them also attend- will continue at the US Embassy until all have been released.

The protesters were also aware that part of the delay in releasing Shaker is to give right wing pressure groups – like the Henry Jackson Foundation – time to spread misleading lies about him, including entirelyunrelieable ‘evidence’ obtained under torture. There was never any real evidence to hold, charge or try him. Many in the media will also help in spreading rumours and falsehood in an attempt to counter the stories that Shaker is expected to tell about what actually happened to him in Guantanamo and the complicity in his torture of both US and UK security agencies.

But photographically my problem was in photographing a man who was absent but at the centre of these events. There wasn’t even the giant inflatable Shaker from some earlier events – it was at a protest taking place the same day outside the White House.  It was solved when one of the protesters put a new ‘Bring Home Shaker Aamer’ t-shirt on the trolley carrying the sound system. Its bright colour and curve around the handles, helped by a little wind almost made it float in the picture, like Shaker Aamer’s ghost. At least in my imagination.


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.

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