Jerusalem Day March

© 2009 Peter Marshall

After I’d taken this picture of a demonstrator waiting to scream insults at the AlQuds day march as it passed the pen at Piccadilly Circus, he complained loudly to a policeman about  being photographed. The policeman, who had been watching me take the picture smiled at me and told him that I was perfectly within my rights to photograph people in public, adding the “Sir” at the end of his reply with more than usual ironic emphasis.

It is a curiously strongly held belief among many of the general public (perhaps mainly the less-educated) that they have some kind of right over their image when they appear (perform might be more accurate) in public, shared by some demonstrators on the extreme right and left. Fortunately the law thinks otherwise, or photography as we know it would be extremely limited. Of course there is the law about defamation, that sometimes rightly restricts how you many use an image, but in general if people are in public, unless they are in situations where they have a genuine expectation of privacy, they can be photographed, at least so long as you don’t continually harass them in a way that could be interpreted as stalking, or they are very rich and famous and can employ extremely expensive briefs to bamboozle judges.

Of course people are free to cover their faces – though the police may force them to remove masks to be photographed. And some of the English Defence League or March for England supporters did so, though not very effectively, having failed to think sufficiently in advance to bring masks.

© 2009 Peter Marshall

Photographers to a person like masks. Not just because we’re fans of Ralph Eugene Meatyard, though some of us undoubtedly are (and some of Saul Steinberg) but because they make for more interesting pictures. But on those occasions when I’ve taken a decision to demonstrate – even where that meant breaking the law – I’ve always wanted to do so openly.

While the demonstrators in the pen made me feel ashamed of my fellow countrymen (and there was also one woman among the football supporters) I felt among brothers and sisters in the march itself, as it made its noisy way along Piccadilly, chanting slogans and carrying banners including “We are all Palestinians” in a display of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

© 2009 Peter Marshall

The text on My London Diary is more or less the same as that I posted on the day to Demotix (where my story made the front page as fairly often) and Indymedia, but there are many more pictures.

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