Berta Cáceres vigil

The vigil in remembrance of environmental activist Berta Cáceres, leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras was a reminder that we are fortunate to live in a country where, at least if you are not a weapons expert with nuclear secrets or a Russian defector, the rule of law usually applies. And while our secretive services may well have been involved in a number of assassinations abroad (including that of Patrice Lumumba, prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and failed attempts to assassinate Gadafi and Sukarno) as well as some decidly dodgy activities in Northern Ireland that led to the deaths of lawyer Rosemary Nelson and Airey Neave, here things are rather safer.

Of course some protesters here have been subjected to lengthy harassment by police, our legal system and some rather more shadowy figures, and a few years ago we had the entirely ridiculous spectacle of Parliament passing a law aimed (unsuccessfully) at getting rid of Brian Haw who was embarassing them by squatting on the pavement opposite. And police fairly routinely provoke protesters by the use of un-called for force and carry out adminstrative punishment by arresting protesters and either releasing them without charge in the early hours of the following morning or – with the collusion of the CPS – making charges which they know have no basis and are only dropped shortly before they come to  trial.

In Honduras things are rather different and activists who put their heads up are at great risk of their lives. Berta Cáceres is only one of a number who have been assassinated, either by forces of the state or by groups encouraged by the state. Before her murder she had  death threats from the Honduran National Police and judicial harassment.

It was quite a difficult event to photograph because of the location, crowded into a relatively narrow pavement between the hard to find door of the embassy and the railings around a subway entrance. I arrived early, and eventually managed to find the embassy door, and was able to show it to the protesters who had been looking for it in Baker St around the corner.

It was difficult for the protesters too, but fortunately the weather was cold and windy which meant that there was nobdoy using the tables and fixed chairs outside the neighbouring pub on which they set up a ring of white flowers and heads of maize around the picture of the murdered activist.

It was hard to avoid rather graphic images advertising the pub food when photographing the protesters with their pictures and posters, and you can see one in the picture above. I’m sure that Reuters wouldn’t approve, but I have darkened and desaturated it slightly to make it less obtrusive.

Usually I’d try to include some sign of the embassy in my pictures of any protest at an embassy, and here you can just see it, behind the white roses at the left of the picture.  There was another clue to its presence in a Honduran flag on the office on one of the upper floors, but it was too high to sensibly include in any image.

A few of the images were made across from the other side of those subway steps, and a few with me clinging to the railings on the small ledge with a large drop behind me down into the stairway. It wasn’t a situation I felt at all happy in, and I soon moved back to safer ground.

As always in confined spaces the Nikon 16mm fisheye came in useful – with the top picture in this post and two others in Vigil for murdered Berta Cáceres on My London Diary making use of its wide angle of view. As usual I ‘defished’ the images to make the verticals into straight lines and held the camera as close to level as possible to keep them vertical.


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